I have some exciting news. This is my 100th post! Woo!
In honor of my 100th post, I am going to give you a travel post AND a recipe. Y’all are lucky readers. In addition to chronicling my world travels, I wanted to start writing about my discoveries and adventures right here in Sweet Home, Chicago. You can find my first “Tourist in the City” post about the Chicago Botanic Garden here.
Today, I am going to tell you about a hidden gem in Chicago. It’s the Maxwell Street Market, a weekly open-air flea market located in the South Loop. Seriously, if you live in Chicago and you love Mexican food, you should head down to Des Plaines and Polk Street and stuff yourself silly. The market is held every Sunday. You’ll find some of the best, inexpensive Mexican street food in Chicago and there is no admission price to get in. Win!
Pastor (Pork) taco – $2
I went with a friend of mine in November and ate approximately 25 pounds of food. Ok, maybe not quite 25 pounds of food, but I sure as heck ate a TON of tacos that day and didn’t feel guilty about it.
Me, quesadillas, carne asada, and pastor.
The food is all made to order, even the tortillas. Did I mention that it is cheap? Check out these prices.
I recommend… everything!
This lady was a tortilla making machine! She was cranking them out like nobody’s business.
Fresh, soft, warm tortillas. YUM!
I am a bit of a mole freak. I love mole. If I see it on a menu, I have to order it. This was some of the best mole I’ve had since moving to Chicago and I paid $2.50 for it.
I love mole!
In addition to housing some fantastic street food, the Maxwell Street Market is also host to a flea market. Need a set of tires? You can get them here along with a new lamp, a package of socks, a box of nails, and a guitar. You can also get your hands on some fresh produce at prices that beat any grocery store in town.
At the flea market, I bought a bag of dried hibiscus flowers and have been drinking hibiscus tea throughout the winter. Hibiscus tea has a very tart flavor, similar to a cranberry. I happened to like the tartness and usually drank my tea without adding any additional sugar, although I occasionally added a bit of honey to sweeten it. The hibiscus flower contains vitamin C, is thought to lower blood pressure, and has a surprising amount of health benefits. It is also very pretty to look at when it is steeping in your teapot.
I posted a picture of strawberry hibiscus popsicles in last week’s Paleo Food Diary and had a lot of people asking for the recipe. If you do not have popsicle molds, you can freeze these in ice cube trays, Dixie cups, or muffin tins. If you like strawberry, you might also enjoy my strawberry, banana, and orange popsicles.
Strawberry Hibiscus Popsicles
Makes 6 pops
Strawberry Hibiscus Popsicles
- 1 pint strawberries
- 1 banana
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/4 cup dried Hibiscus flowers
- In a pot, bring water and Hibiscus flowers to a boil. Once boiling, remove from heat and let steep for 10 minutes.
- Strain flowers and add the liquid to a blender.
- Add strawberries, banana, and honey and blend until smooth.
- Pour mixture into popsicle molds and freeze.
Over the weekend, my husband and I spent some time walking around the Chicago Botanic Gardens. The outside grounds are still beautiful and serene even though the plants and flowers are no longer in bloom. The entire garden sits on 385 acres, and the outdoor landscaping is definitely worth a trip any time of the year. They also have four greenhouses on site, each housing plants from a different region. Most of the pictures below were taken in the greenhouses, but there are a few from the grounds as well.
This photo makes it look like it was not 40 degrees outside!
Geometric succulent in the desert greenhouse
An emerging pineapple
The last of fall on the grounds
Stone steps leading to the Japanese Gardens
The underside of these leaves are my favorite color
I wish I could do yoga here every morning
Japanese rock garden
Winter rose display
Over the last year, most of the photos you have seen on this blog have been taken with my iPhone. I used to have access to an absurdly nice camera when I worked full-time at the University of Chicago, and I dream of the day that I can take this blog to the next level with fancy photography. I am slowly saving up for a nice DSLR, but probably won’t be able to afford one for at least another year. It will be a good graduation/new job present to myself. However, I have to say that I am very impressed with the quality of photos that phones take nowadays. Do you remember what cell phone photos used to look like? It was not pretty. Do you want to know what the very first iPhone/Instagram picture I took was?
Lincoln Park Conservatory
That is a picture of the entrance to the Lincoln Park Conservatory in Chicago. How fitting! By the way, if you want to follow me on Instagram, you can find me under cucina_kristina!
About a week before I left the country for the first time, I received this message in a fortune cookie.
11 countries to date. Still counting!
It has been taped on the back of my passport since 2002 and serves as a constant reminder to never stop exploring the world. I have learned so much through my travels, and I try my best to get out of the country at least once a year. Now that I am married and have changed my name, I need a new passport. I am having a really hard time pulling the trigger and getting a new one. Mainly because I do not want to have a passport with a ton of blank pages. I love looking at the stamps I have collected over the years and recalling the experiences I have had abroad. This page alone houses seven years of travel experiences from 2002 – 2009.
Upper left stamp from Dublin was the first stamp I got.
I have been meaning to post my travel stories for a while and just never got around to it. When I got in touch with my November Foodie Pen Pal (be sure to check back on November 30th when I reveal what she sent me!), I mentioned that I have done a lot of traveling. She wrote me back an incredibly energetic email asking about my trips and it lit the fire under me to start working on these travel posts. Thanks, Kellie! I’ve got a lot of work to do, but I am really excited to relive my experiences and look back on everywhere I’ve been. Stay tuned for posts about Dublin, England, Italy, Croatia, Switzerland, France, Spain, Costa Rica, Thailand, Australia, and the U.S.
The stamp from Dublin, Ireland in the upper left hand corner (November 18, 2002) was the first stamp to grace my passport. I acquired the same stamp on April 6, 2009. Dublin is one of my favorite cities in the world, and I hope to get many more stamps from Ireland in my lifetime.
Ella Fitzgerald has a song called I Love Paris where she sings,
I love Paris in the spring time,
I love Paris in the fall,
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles,
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles.
While I am inclined to agree with her, I think springtime in Dublin is fantastic!
Tulips in the park
Cherry Blossoms in St. Stephens Green
An Irish government building
Am I right? The photos above are from a trip I took to Europe in 2009. I started and ended the trip in Dublin because it was cheaper to fly round-trip from the states to Dublin and then fly within Europe via Ryan Air. I have heard a lot of people complain about Ryan Air, and while it is not the most comfortable airline on the planet, the flights within Europe are short and you can’t beat their prices. Airfare fluctuates often, but currently you can fly from the UK to Italy for €18 Euros ($23 U.S. dollars).
I stayed at the Kilronan House, a cute little B&B located on a quiet, tree-lined street about 5 minutes from Grafton Street and St. Stephen’s Green. The man who ran the place, Cormac, was extremely friendly and accommodating. Upon check-in, he gave me a map, circled a few “must see” tourist attractions, brewed me a cup of tea, and sat with me in the lobby chatting until my room was ready. He told me all about his wife and how they just got back from vacationing in the Canary Islands. It rained the whole time they were there and he said that being stuck in a hotel room with nothing but books was a real test to their marriage. I thought that was funny! His wife was a flight attendant for Aer Lingus and prior to being in Dublin, they lived in Boston for 5 years. His wife was pregnant at the moment so she was not able to fly, but as soon as the baby came and she was assigned to an overnight/over the weekend flight, he hopes to get back to the states and visit Chicago. I don’t think Cormac works at the Kilronan House any longer because I do not recognize the man in this photo, but it has been over 3 years since I was there so my memory could very well be failing me!
Kilronan House – 70 Adelaide Road, Dublin 2, Ireland
Super cute, right? The room I had was extremely small so that is something to keep in mind, but the price, location, and atmosphere cannot be beat, and I wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again. I highly recommend it!
My first day out on the town, I decided to walk around and get my bearings. One of my favorite things to do when traveling is wander. It’s nice to have suggestions here and there, but I have always found amazing shops, pubs, bakeries, and sights by just walking around. It often makes me wonder what it would be like to be a tourist in my own city. Come to think of it, I have never taken the El to a random stop in Chicago and just wandered up and down the streets. I should do that, I will probably be surprised at what I will find hiding in my own backyard!
Antique shop where I almost knocked over
a VERY expensive china set!
I was on the hunt for a bakery when I stumbled upon Lord Edward restaurant. It was nearing dinnertime and it looked inviting from the outside so I popped in for some food and a pint. The hostess seated me at a small table next to two older gentlemen. As I started talking with them, I found that they were on vacation and that they were policemen from the suburbs of Chicago. Small world!
White Wine Mussels from Lord Edward in Dublin, Ireland
I LOVE mussels and these were no exception. I honestly wanted to order a second batch immediately after finishing these, but decided to be a lady and order another pint of Guinness instead.
A pint of Guinness, served extra cold.
Contrary to popular belief, Guinness is not served “warm” in Dublin. It is served warmer than traditional American draft beer (42.8˚ vs. 38˚) and it is also served extra cold (38.6˚) . While both of these temperatures are warmer than your typical Miller Lite, it is not as warm as people describe it. It still feels cold and will quench your thirst quite nicely. Guinness in Ireland is like liquid candy! It is sweet, goes down smoothly, and there is absolutely no bitter taste to it at all. It is 100% true that Guinness tastes differently in Dublin than it does in America.
While we are on the subject of food, if you are ever in Dublin you MUST spend an afternoon eating sweets and drinking tea at Queen of Tarts. I passed by and the smell lured me the way it does in old cartoons. You know what I am talking about, right? One character puts a freshly baked pie in the window, instructs her partner not to touch the pie, and leaves the house to go shopping. Then, the pie scent turns into a pair of hands and lures in an animal who steals the pie off the windowsill and hilarity ensues? Yeah. It was just like that.
I ordered a pot of tea and a slice of chocolate fudge cake that I still think about to this day. When the waitress put the cake in front of me it was so moist that it glistened in the sun. It was the richest, most intensely chocolate tasting cake I have ever had. If they shipped overseas, I would order a piece right this second.
I was too busy eating the cake to snap a picture of it!
I am a big fan of Irish Breakfast Tea. There are several varieties over here in the states, but Barry’s is a popular Irish brand of tea that you can now purchase online. Isn’t the internet fantastic? Because the tea is strong and somewhat bitter, I like to enjoy my tea with almond milk and sugar.