Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Small pub, great grub -- Stockholm's, Geneva

I'm going to repeat what people in Geneva and the tri-cities already knew, I'm sure: Stockholm's, 306 W. State St., Geneva, is a great little pub.

It's small -- some of those restaurants on State St are bigger than they look, but not Stockholm's, but we found a seat table pretty easily -- good timing. It's got a lot of dark wood and a local bar sort of feel, even though it's actually not that old. And while it looks more like a bar, they have a decent amount of tables and some darn good food, much better than your average bar food.

Shared the Papas Italiano as an appetizer which are totally delicious and seriously fattening, I'm sure -- they are homemade chips with a load of cheese sauce, bacon and scallions. Yum.

I had the buffalo chicken wrap, which was tasty and cheesy and large, though not quite as spicy as I might have liked. The husband had a burger, which he said was quite good and nicely medium. And our friend with us had a Reuben he declared adequate (he is a Reuben connoisseur) and tried the Aiger Ale, which he very much enjoyed.

My husband and I aren't really beer drinkers, though we did both try his, and it was pretty good. So maybe next time I'll have to try the LoRazz.

It being Swedish Days, it was pretty busy; we got good service and a lot of checking in, though it wasn't effusive. We didn't linger because there were people waiting for tables.

But the next time we venture out to Geneva, I'll say we'd definitely hit up Stockholm's again. Good stuff.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Rockin' the Farmers Markets

It's mid-summer already (how did that happen?!) and so all around the suburbs, farmers markets are in full swing. I love me some good farmers markets. The whole idea delights me -- fresh, local produce that wasn't trucked in from California or Mexico. That recently touched dirt or was on the vine. Sold by people who know what they're talking about. Usually at good prices.

Last year we went a few times up to Mt Prospect's farmers market; it's pretty nice, not huge but with a decent variety and selection. We went a bit later in the season, so I think what we got wasn't quite as peak as it might have been.

This year we were hoping Addison would be up and running again, since that's very close to us, but there are no signs of life there. So we ventured a bit farther west, and ended up at the Wheaton French Market.

It is a delight. Tightly packed into a Metra parking lot are two-plus rows of garden-fresh vegetables, tempting fruits, plus cheeses, fresh-baked breads and pastries, farm-raised meat, gourmet goodies, artsy stuff, clothes, and more.

I noticed that some vendors did take credit cards, but I think it's nice to have cash on hand at places like these, especially smaller bills. Many of the tables offered samples, from bread bites to pickles, and when I was eyeing some cherries I was invited to take a taste.

We ended up with a pint each of blueberries and cherries, plus a package of Wisconsin cheese curds (mmmmm) and big plans to go back on a regular basis.

Wheaton French Market, corner of Main St. & Liberty Drive. Saturdays, 8 am to 2 pm. April to October. Plenty of parking in the area including a garage 2 blocks away. Kettle corn, Thai food, coffee and more offered for eating while browsing.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Itasca Fest, bigger than you might think

Well, we checked out the Itasca Fest, and I'm pleased to say it's a pretty good-sized festival. Parking was a little difficult to figure out, but there were plenty of spaces; the carnival was a lot bigger than you would expect for such a small town. Tons of rides and games, plus traditional carnival food and offerings from local eateries. It was a lovely day outside, too. The 4-year-old with us had a great time on the multiple kid-friendly rides, and there were fun ones for adults, too.

The NASA exhibit was neat. It was basically just a trailer, but had multiple interactive computer exhibits, trying out dexterity with big gloves on, and a scale to tell you how much you would weigh on the moon, Venus or Mars. Plus a genuine moon rock to stare at for awhile. :)

For good old-fashioned carnival rides, local eats and something to do on a summer day, Itasca Fest fit the bill.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Itasca Fest -- Small-town fun

Tomorrow (not tonight, since unfortunately I'm guessing it will be rained out) we'll be checking out the 20th annual Itasca Fest. It runs Thurs-Sun, and features free entertainment, kiddie rides, food, displays, a flea market and more. What I'm especially looking forward to is a 50-foot NASA-sponsored trailer that purports to feature a nifty exhibit.

Itasca is small, but it's a cute little town, and their downtown is worth seeing. I'll report more on the festival in a couple days; if you want more info on the fest, visit the Itasca village website.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Get your park on

Over the weekend, I visited the in-laws for some burgers and fireworks. And while we were there, I once again was impressed by a fantastic park in the southwest burbs.

Centennial Park, at 15600 West Ave. in Orland Park, is one of the best parks I've ever seen, anywhere.

What makes it so great is the use of the space -- it blends natural areas with attractions and activities for all ages. It's huge. Included are soccer fields, baseball diamonds, fishing piers, a playground, volleyball courts, picnic areas, a large and elaborate aquatic center, and even an ice skating rink for winter. (And more.)

I'm sorry I don't have any pictures to post -- we were there at night for a fireworks display and then again the next day to let a 4 year old run rampant -- but it's a really lovely, well-kept area with tons to do for the whole family. If you live in the SW burbs, or find yourself down in Orland Park for a day, I can't recommend a better park than Centennial.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The summer concert season

If you're seeking a great summer concert at an outdoor suburban arena, look no further than Chicago's South Side.

Although Bridgeview and Tinley Park aren't thought of as the city's typical suburbs (like Rosemont, home of the indoor Allstate Arena), they shouldn't be forgotten. Chicago itself may be known for its small and intimate venues, but big experiences are to be had in the aforementioned neighborhoods, which house Toyota Park and First Midwest Bank Ampitheatre, respectively.

Toyota Park is the Chicago Fire's soccer field, transforming into a 28,000-seat venue for concerts and other events. I recently joined a crowd of Top-40 kiddies there at the B96 Pepsi Summerbash, and previously got my jam band on with Dave Matthews Band last summer. Both were fun (if completely different) experiences.

The park recently celebrated its third birthday and you can tell -- one of the best things about it was its cleanliness. Others include the great view from every seat in the house (plus, in case you're sitting a little far back, a huge big screen behind the stage clearly depicts all the action).

Word to the wise: Don't buy into the neon wristband crowd for floor seats. The stadium seating actually provides a bit of a better view because it's raised, and you won't feel any closer to the performer by fighting to stand taller than the drunken idiots in front of you.

Upcoming shows: Windy City Wrestling Presents "Legends Under the Stars" - July 10; Miller Lite Presents Bridgeview Music Fest: Country - July 24; Korn - July 31; Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band - Aug. 8 and 15; Phish - Aug. 11.

Here's a rundown of all other pertinent information, on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the worst:

Parking: 3
Traffic flow to and from event: 3
Seating/view: 5
Audio/video system: 5
Concessions: 4
Restrooms: 4

Overall: 4

Meanwhile, First Midwest Bank Ampitheatre (formerly known as Tweeter Center and World Music Theater), is a bit larger of an arena, popular for its cheap lawn seats and "rain or shine" status for events. I recently saw The Fray here with Jack's Mannequin, and it was a pleasing fan-filled time.

For the best seats, pay close attention to the "obstructed view" areas on the seating chart and plop yourself down at least a few feet away. I'd suggest the 200-level seats, which are usually mid-price and provide a happy medium between being up close to the stage action to being up high on the lawn. Try for tickets closer to section 205 as well -- the sun likes to set right in your eyes if you're more stage left.

Word to the wise: Tinley Park is a bit of a hike, whether it be from the 'burbs or the city. So if you're planning on attending a show here, make sure you give plenty of time for when parking opens as you'll want to get there early. The pre-teens directing traffic actually do know what they're doing.

Upcoming shows: No Doubt with Paramore - July 11; Def Leppard with Poison and Cheap Trick - July 17; Vans Warped Tour - Aug. 1; Brad Paisley with Dierks Bentley and Jimmy Wayne - Aug. 7; Blink-182 with Fall Out Boy - Aug. 15.

Again, the rundown:

Parking: 4
Traffic flow to and from event: 4
Seating/view: 3
Audio/video system: 4
Concessions: 3
Restrooms: 3

Overall: 3.5

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Sushi in the suburbs

After eating at Bistro Wasabi in Lake in the Hills last night, I've decided I want to become a sushi connoisseur.

I've never been hugely into fish in general, but somehow I took a liking to sushi a few years ago. Unfortunately, I still haven't tried a lot of it and I don't really know what I'm doing, so a group of my co-workers kind of just giggled at me as I fumbled around with my chopsticks.

Despite what I'll call a "fancy" ambiance at Bistro, I felt surprisingly comfortable being the outcast and was never met with sushi snobbery. At first, I thought I was walking into some sort of West Coast mirage, as Bistro Wasabi is confusingly set in the middle of a strip mall at 4590 W. Algonquin Rd. (there's also a Hoffman Estates location, I'm told).

But the intimate table settings and dim lighting were a warm welcome, as well as the friendly and helpful servers. They explained what was in each roll, and came out with new plates promptly.

Our group of six ordered edamame as an appetizer (deliciously warmed with a hint of salt), then split a variety of rolls we handpicked from the menu. We had a little bit of everything, but my favorites were the Avocado roll and Alaskan roll.

One of my friends best described the food at this place as "like butter" before we ventured there. And he was right. The sushi was exceptionally fresh, and I could've kept eating past my eight to 10 rolls.

Although the prices on the menu are a bit intimidating at first, you get a lot more than you expect. The rolls are huge, and you get a few for each separate order. For the six of us including 18 percent gratuity already added, it came out to a little under $20 each. Note: most of us did drink only water, so if you plan to imbibe in sake or other cocktails, it'll cost a bit more.

I will definitely be back here again for some more samplings. It was an exciting meal, and we each enjoyed trying new things and talking about our food.

Now, I'm ready to try a new place and keep on truckin' on my sushi journey through the suburbs. If you've got any suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comment section below!