Chicago from Lake Michigan (google maps)

The 20 Best Desserts in Chicago

From humble to haute, these sweets deliver pure pleasure.

chocolate-profiteroleI’ve been missing Chicago for a long time now. Southern California is great for the weather, the beaches, and the mountains. That’s been enough to keep me here, but I miss Chicago’s sports scene, its neighborhoods, its architecture, and especially its food. Now, Chicago Magazine has to do this to me. The 20 best desserts in Chicago. This isn’t enough to tip the scale, yet; but with things like this to think about I might not be able to hold out much longer.

Right now I’m drooling, thinking about Chocolate Profiteroles, Chocolate Beignet, Basque Cake, and Coffee Custard.

On the other hand, it’s probably good I’m not in Chicago because right now, I’m trying especially hard to lose weight. A month ago I set a goal to lose 25 pounds in 50 days. I was told that was unrealistic and apparently it was. So I’m revising it to 25 pounds by the end of the year. If I was in Chicago right now, I know that goal wouldn’t have a chance.

coffee-custardIf I was in Chicago right now, I know that goal wouldn’t have a chance. First of all my family, typical Italians, would be inviting me to various family gatherings and I would use that as an excuse to fatten myself up; second, having read this article I would be taking the first opportunity to stop in one of these 20-best-deserts places, just to look around. It wouldn’t be long before I’d find a second opportunity, and then a third, fourth, fifth, and so on.

Now, you might be thinking, LA is a big city, bigger than Chicago, surely there have to be 20 places as with desserts as good, if not better, than the 20 in Chicago.

Funny you should think that because it so happens that the current issue of LA Magazine also has an article about LA’s best desserts. While none of them look good enough to keep me here if I decided to return to Chicago, there are a few that might be good enough to compete.

The thing is… I am in Southern CA, within driving distance of LA and as long as I’m here a slice of Chioccolato or a few Durango cookies or maybe a Halo-Halo could be worth a trip… just to look around.

Source: The 20 Best Desserts in Chicago | Chicago magazine | November 2016

National Dance Like a Chicken Day

chicken dancingThis is National Dance Like a Chicken Day, May 14th. Many people think this is the day they can go out in public and shamefacedly do the Chicken Dance. Although the Chicken Dance has been around for years, the first time I ever heard of it I was at a minor league ballgame. Between the third and fourth innings the team mascot walked out to second base and started dancing a silly dance to the bouncy music that was playing. The announcer suggested everyone stand up and dance along. Many people already were. I never learned how to do the Chicken Dance, but I remember it involves a lot of arm movement and squatting.

A few people might like to take a moment today to dance with a chicken, or just a drumstick or two, or maybe with a chicken sandwich.

Then there’s my friend Joe who did the best imitation of a chicken I ever saw. He had the leg/foot movements, the bobbing and quick look-here, look-there movements of the bird’s head, and he could crow. I never saw him dance like that, but if he ever did, he might have created the rooster dance, which would then be celebrated by Dance Like a Rooster Day.

Today, however, I am remembering when I danced like a chicken or rather, didn’t dance. Every Saturday night during my Senior year at IC high in Elmurst Illinois, I spent standing by a wall along one side of the gym with all the the other guys, two chicken to ask one of the girls to dance. Instead, we stood there talking to each other and watching the girls and the two or three guys with their girlfriends dancing. All of us lined up like that probably didn’t look much like a group chickens pecking at whatever they could find on the barnyard floor, but each of us stood there, trying to work up the courage to ask a girl to dance and wishing one of them would put us out of our misery even if it meant embarrassing us terribly by asking us to dance.

A half-dozen years later I was in London, on military leave. The friend I was with asked a waitress if there was a good place to dance. I don’t know if she was serious or if she was playing a joke on us, but the directions she gave led us to a high school or secondary school dance. I would have expected it to be different in England, but it wasn’t. The girls and a few boys were out on the floor dancing, but most of the boys were lined up along one wall, watching.

Before we left I noticed a handful of girls doing a strange ‘dance.’ In no particular unison they walked five or six steps to the beat, spun around and walked back five or six steps when they spun around again and continued like this through the entire song. They looked like chickens

Chicago Sports Update 12-16-15

As a Chicago White Sox fan I’m sligtly disappointed with yesterday’s trade for Todd Frazier… but in the Todd Frazier, new Chicago White Sox third basemanend it might be a very, very good one. I was hoping Avi Garcia would be traded rather than Trace Thompson. Trace was one of the Sox bright spots last year, but considering he hit about .260 in the minors last season could have been a fluke, just like Gordon Beckham’s first season was a fluke.

The Dodgers might have gotten a steal, but Thompson might turn out to be just average. Still, I’ll miss seeing if he can replicate last years performance. Micah Johnson was a disappointment. I added him to my fantasy team (behind Cincinatti’s Brandon Phillips) last year, but I cut him a week before the Sox sent him back down to the minors. After seeing him in Spring training, I thought he was ready for the majors, but he wasn’t. However, I still think he was more ready than Carlos Sanchez. As for Frankie Montas, the Sox gave up a promising relief pitcher, maybe a starter, and he might turn out to be the real diamond in this trade, but he wasn’t with the Sox long enough for me to get attached in any way.

So, now the infield is set. Abreu, Bret Lawrie, Saladino, and Frazier with Navarro or Avila behind the plate. The outfield is still a little shaky. Adam Eaton is fairly solid, Melky Cabrera is okay, but I thought Thompson would be out there and Garcia should be used mostly at DH… if the Sox could dump LaRoche. However, the Sox dumped Thompson and right now it looks like LaRoche and Garcia are still in play.

Last year Hahn fixed the bullpen. I’d still like to see him bring Albers back, but it should be good enough as it is. Looks like the rotation is going to be Sale, Quintana, Rodon, Danks, and Johnson. If Danks can pitch as well the entire season as he did the second half last year we won’t miss the ‘could be’ of Jeff Samhardya. Johnson wasn’t in the rotation last year, but if he pitches as well all year as he did after the Sox brought him up, we won’t miss the terrible first half brought on by Mr. Samyardja and the at-that-time inconsistant John Danks.

One writer I read said he thought the Sox were “a still a bat away” from being a true contender. I think that would mean an outfield bat, maybe Cespedes, but probably not. Still the rumor is the Sox are talking to him (or his agent), so who knows. Garcia is still young. If he can start lofting the ball into the outfield more than he has been, the problem could be solved.

Just like I thought at the beginning of last year, I think this could be a very, very good year for the Sox. But Adam LaRoche has to hit the way he’s supposed to hit, Melky Cabrera has to hit for the entire season the way he’s supposed to hit, Alex Avila has to hit the way he used to hit (he was not much better than either Flowers or Soto last year), Adam Eaton has to hit for the entire season the way he did the second half of last year, Chris Sale can’t fold late in the season, Jose Quintana has to get some run support, and that should put the White Sox into contention. Add to that the if of Avisail Garcia becoming a home run hitter, Tyler Saladino hitting a little better, David Robertson returning to being an elite closer, and maybe Carson Fulmer being ready before the All-Star break. If most of that happens the White Sox could be challenging Kansas City for the division lead.

Just like last year, that’s a lot of iffffs, but it looks like GM Rick Hahn is still moving the team in the right direction. The Sox are relatively younger and stronger than they were a couple years ago, and the minor league system is no longer the quagmire it was.

Turning to much of the rest of the the Chicago sports world: The Blackhawks look to be just so-so this year (although so-so for the Blackhawks is above average for the rest of the NHL). I’m not expecting much of run for them in the playoffs, but they still have that core, so back-to-back is possible. The Bulls are the Bulls, good but not enough as a playoff team so again they will get there, but not go much further. As for the Bears… well, I like seeing them win, but this year I’d rather see them lose. It’s been a foregone conclusion since the beginning of the season that they weren’t good enough to go up against the likes of Seattle or New England (although they’ve been much better than many sportswriters thought they’d be), so since the beginning of the season I’ve been looking forward to the NFL draft. I was hoping for a top draft pick, but the Bears have been too good for that to happen. Now, they’re likely to pick around 12th – 15th in the first round. It seems they need to add at least one of everything except receiver, running back, and maybe quarterback to be possible contenders. Kyle Long is okay at right tackle, but he was much better at guard. I’d like to see a right tackle picked in the draft or free agency (so Long can be moved back to guard). Add to that a defensive lineman, a linebacker, a corner, a safety and maybe another receiver and I’ll think that was a good draft. I know some people are thinking a field goal kicker might belong in that mix, but Robbie Gould will recover from his recent troubles. He’s still one of the best NFL kickers, but he’s suffered through one of those little ‘luck’ or ‘slumps’ or’confidence’ bumps kickers tend to go through every now and then.

So, that leaves the Cubs. It’s taken Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer awhile, but it appears they’ve built a juggernaught, something the Cubs haven’t been for more than a hundred years, if ever. Who ever thought it would be the Cubs who would btake the title of Chicago’s #1 sports team – a true championship contender, but they’re about to take that title from the Blackhawks and if the Cubbies don’t win at least 100 games this year and make it to the World Series, I’ll be wondering who is feeding the goat some gourmet food.

 

Question for Chicago Bears Fans

Hey Bears fans, got a question for you.Bears - Packers

With just a couple more preseason games before this years version of the NFL season begins and the Bears try to prove that they really are the Monsters of the Midway rather than the Midwives of the Midway. They’ve got a tough field to travel with games against the hated Green Bay Packers, the disliked Seattle Seahawks, and the team that long ago and not so far away played in the same city, the Cardinals of Arizona, formerly of St. Louis, and previously of Chicago. Three teams that are each considered strong Super Bowl candidates.

That trio is followed by the Raiders, Chiefs, and Lions. Three teams the Bears have a more likely chance to beat. However, most frognosticators are croaking the Bears will be 0 – 6 or at best 2 – 4 when they go into their thank-the-good-Lord-we-need-a-break Bye week. It doesn’t get much easier after that with games against only three teams that did not finish last year with a winning record. In other words, only three teams that according to some of the speculists will give the Bears a chance not to finish the season 0 – 16.

I’m inclined to believe the Bears will surprise and carry at least an 8 – 8 record at the end of the season. Needless to say, I’m also an optimist. I sincerely thought that last year was going to be the year the Bears beat the Packers not once, but twice and would march into the playoffs as division champs with an 11 – 5 record.

Yes, it’s taken awhile to scrape the egg, not to mention the pain, off my face.

So, here is my question: Would you rather see the Bears not embarrass themselves any further, surprise just about everyone (including me when I’m being realistic), and make the playoffs (where they are again likely to have to face some combination of the Packers, Seahawks, and Cardinals) or would your rather end the year with a record no better than 3 – 13 so they will have a chance to pick early in the draft and maybe pick a franchise quarterback?

Which would you rather see: the Bears metaphorically sticking their tongues out at everyone at the end of this year or possibly in the future?

A Few Thoughts About Chicago Sports – 7/5/15

The Cubs are pretty good this year, and maybe getting better. They just happen to be good in a year the Cardinals are very, very good. Put the Cubs in the National League West andChicago Sports they’re only a game out. Put them in the East and they’re just a half game away from the Nationals. It seems to me that if the Cubs can add just one better than average starter they could challenge the Cards.

The White Sox on the other hand are not the second best team in their Division some thought they would be (me included). Everything might be coming together right now after they took two games from the current best team in baseball, the Cards and a team with a much better record than the Sox, the Orioles. I think some fans might be thinking Carlos Rodon should have been left in the minors and that he is no Chris Sale. It’s true he is not following a path similar to Sale’s, but he is following a path similar to Clayton Kershaw’s. When the Dodgers brought Kershaw up the talk here in L.A. was that he was going to be the next  Sandy Koufax, but at that time he wasn’t. He had the tools, but he hadn’t learned how to use them at the major league level. His first year, he was mediocre at best, a lot like Rodon. It took Kershaw a couple years, but we all saw what happened once he matured.

The Bears could, and should surprise quite a few people this year. At the least they should finish 7 – 9, which would be an improvement, although only a moderate improvement, on last year. This is something people seem to be forgetting: only two years ago the Bears with Cutler and McCown at Quarterback had one of the five best and in perhaps the second best offense (depending on how one interprets the stats) in the NFL. Last season saw them slip quite a bit, but Marshall was injured much of the season and Trestman’s offense had become somewhat predictable. Bring in a new offensive genius, one whose history indicates he does not become as predictable as Trestman did, add a corp of healthy receivers and what could be a wealth at running back and that top five offense should be resurrected. Beyond that with Vic Fangio and John Fox shaping the defense it should be at least a little better than the gawd-awful Mel Tucker defense of the last two years. It seems many people do not add that up in the same way I do, but I will be very surprised if the Bears – in what is essentially a “stay the course” year – turn in a losing record.

Because of the NHL’s ‘salary cap’ limitations, the Black Hawks have lost Brandon Saad and are likely to also lose Bryan Bickell or Patrick Sharp or both. For some teams the loss of two or three players the caliber of Saad and Sharp could be a death knell, indicating a fall upon hard times. That’s not the case for the ‘Hawks. They’ve lost other important players, perhaps key players after every one of their Stanley Cup seasons during the past six years (Dustin Byfuglien, Antti Niemi, Nick Leddy), yet they’ve been a serious threat to win the Stanley Cup every year since 2010. Sure the loss of Brandon Saad is disappointing, but by no means does it mean the Black Hawks will not be the team to beat again next year.

The Bulls brought back Jimmy Butler. They should be a pretty good team again next year, but as long as LeBron James is playing on another team, its unlikely the Bulls will be adding another banner to the six Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and company brought to Chicago. I don’t care who the coach is, I don’t care who else the Bulls manage to add, I doubt it’s going to happen.

 

Making Chicago Sports Fans Feel Good

I remember every one of the moments depicted in this video: Mark Buerle’s perfect game, Michael Jordan’s game winners, the Blackhawk Stanley Cup victories, Walter Payton  and the Super Bowl Bears, and Devin Hester’s ability to find openings where there didn’t appear to be any.

Still, no matter how many great moments there have been in Chicago  Sports history, I want more. I want to see the Bulls go deep into the NBA playoffs. I want to see the Blackhawks win another Stanley Cup. I want to see the Bears make the playoffs. I want to see the White Sox win their Division and the Cubs… I want more than to just wish them well.

Watch this video. It will bring back many great Chicago sports memories…

Bo’s Jackson on Bo Jackson

If you’re a White Sox fan or just a fan of kids who like sports, you should love this video. Adam LaRoche’s son, Drake, had a few questions for 52-year-old, Bo Jackson, or maybe just one: Who are you? Bo was happy to tell the 13-year-old about Bo Jackson.

Somewhere along the way I was expecting either Drake or Bo to express a ‘that’s incredible’ moment. It didn’t happen and I like the way Bo talked about himself matter-of-factly, as if he was a big deal, but it was no big deal.

Bo was with the White Sox only three seasons, and played just 108 games because of hip problems that led to a hip replacement in 1992. He had 82 hits, 19 home runs, and 59 RBI’s in 355 at bats. He helped lead the Sox to the Division crown in 1993, but they fell to Toronto in the playoffs in six games.

One of my favorite stories about Jackson says he promised his mother he would hit a home run for her when he returned from the hip replacement surgery. Unfortunately she died before he returned in 1993. Nevertheless, with his first swing in at-bat against the New York Yankees he hit a home run – promise fulfilled.

Here’s the full story: Mic’d up: Bo’s history lesson | MLB.com.

Former White Sox star Jose Conteras Still Pitching

Grandpa Jose ContrerasMany things went the White Sox way when the won the World Series ten years ago in 2005. Just about everyone on the team had an above average year. They combined power with speed, 4th in the league in home runs, and 3rd in stolen bases. They managed to get hits, steal bases and hit home runs when they needed them.

The hitting was good, but the pitching was great. As a team the Sox pitching staff led the league in ERA at .361, complete games – 9, Saves – 54, and innings pitched – 1475.2. John Garland led the staff with 18 wins, followed by Mark Buehrle’s 16, Jose Contreras’ 15. and Freddy Garcia’s 14. Dustin Hermanson led the team with 34 saves, but it was the 6 saves and late season heroics of Bobby Jenks that will most be remembered by Sox fans.

While everything fell into place for the White Sox that year, it fell into place as it never had before and never would again for Jose Contreras. He won more games, struck out more batters and had the second lowest ERA in any year of his 11 year major league career. Not only that but he capped off that year with three wins in the post season, including a victory in the first game of the World Series.

Maybe his year wasn’t the most important reason the Sox won 99 games that year, but it was an example of how everything fell into place for the Sox that year (as it must for any team that wins the World Series.

Nevertheless, it was with a mixture of surprise, admiration, and joy that I read this story about Jose Contreras. He is still pitching. It’s been a couple years since he last pitched in the major leagues, but he’s 43 years old, has two grand-kids and is pitching for the Tijuana Toros. He’s still able to throw 93 mph fastballs and had a 10 – 3 record in Mexico last year. You can read the rest of the story here: Former White Sox star Jose Conteras pitching as a grandpa | Chicago.

#baseball

St Patrick’s Day in Chicago

St Patrick's Cathedral and John Hancock BuildingMost people are aware that Chicagoans go crazy on St. Patrick’s Day. Everybody wears green, has green frosted donuts for breakfast, green frosted cookies and cup-cakes for snacks, corned beef and cabbage for dinner. They watch the St. Patrick’s Day parade, walk past the green-dyed Chicago River, then spend the night reveling, singing Irish songs and drinking green beer.

I never thought much of it when I was a kid. As far as I was concerned, St. Joseph’s Day was my day because I was Italian. Still I tried to remember to wear something green, and I enjoyed the green-frosted treats.

When I started working in Chicago I sometimes went to mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Of course, on St. Patrick’s Day the cathedral was crowded like as if it was a Sunday.

Then I married an Irish lass, who happened to have a brother named Patrick, and things began to change. I started finding reasons to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, but the kicker came along when I discovered a great, great, something grandmother of mine was Irish. Sure and begorrah, I was a bit Irish after all.

St Patrick's Blue shamrockNow, I’ve discovered that all those years when I preferred to wear blue rather than green, I may have been doing the right thing, because St. Patrick’s color was actually blue. Green came about when the Irish fighting for independence choose that as their color. So, if you see me wearing blue on March 17th you can be sure it’s because there is a little Irish in me.

For a Moment I’ll Miss Brandon Marshall

Brandon MarshallOn the one hand I’m sad to see Brandon Marshall leave the Bears. For two of three years he was a great receiver, perhaps the greatest the Bears have ever had. Last year he seemed to revert to the problem-child he became in Denver and was in Miami. In Chicago he overcame his problems, but for some reason – maybe it was due to his injuries, maybe it was due to the failure of last year’s Bears to improve, maybe it is just the way Brandon Marshall is.

Still, I like him. Still, I would have loved to see him in a Bears uniform again this year. I understand though. I’ve worked in places where there was a loud and negative voice, a sour apple in on otherwise good place to work, but it could have been even better without the bad apple. I guess that’s what Brandon Marshall became with the Bears and maybe the Bears have a better chance to improve without him rather than with him.

I’m going to miss him. I’ll miss the excitement he brought to the Bears, but I won’t miss the apparent dissension he created.

One last comment: it would have been nice if the Bears hadn’t wanted so badly to get Marshall out-of-town, because he’s still productive and probably worth more than just a fifth round pick.

Related Article: Bears agree to trade WR Brandon Marshall to the Jets | CSN Chicago.

No one meant more to White Sox than Minoso

Circa 1955, Portrait of Cuban-born Chicago White Sox baseball player Orestes 'Minnie' Minoso

Orestes ‘Minnie’ Minoso

The very first time I went to Comiskey Park, Minnie Minoso homered. It was also while I watching a  game at Comiskey park.

In a way I was new to baseball. Although I played it in elementary school, I was neither very good at the game, nor was I very interested in it. Then my family moved the week after I finished fourth grade and week later my best friend, Jack, moved in down the street. Of course, he wasn’t my best friend, but he was going to be. Jack was crazy about baseball, especially the White Sox: Nellie Fox, Sherm Lollar, Jungle Jim Rivera, and Minnie Minoso.

By the time that summer was over and I began Fifth grade, I had also become a baseball fanatic. Not only that, but because it was about all we did in our spare time – catch and hit and play sandlot games in the park across the street, I became fairly good at it. The other kids were surprised when I slapped a single through the infield my first time up because I had never gotten a hit before.

The next summer I also saw my first baseball game. Jack’s father was a Cubs fan so he took us to see the Cubs play Cincinnati. The Cubs had the lead 7 – 5 going into the ninth inning, but lost it 8 – 7.

A couple months later Jack and I made plans to take a train into Chicago so we could see the Sox play a double-header. Although there was a train that could get us to Union Station just a few minutes after 11, we didn’t know how long it would take us to walk over to where we would catch the ‘L’ or subway train to get to 35th St. Plus we thought it would be more fun to get there early so we could check out the ballpark.

Unfortunately for us we didn’t know that the trains did not run on Sundays. We figured it out when it when the train was late and we took a good look at the schedule. We should have gone back home then and watched the train on TV. Instead we hiked up to Irving Park. Somehow Jack knew there was a bus that ran almost all the way out to Bensenville. What we didn’t know was the ‘almost’ in a car was a lot closer than the ‘almost’ hitchhiking. By the time we caught a ride it was almost 9:30 and it was a little after ten when we climbed aboard the bus. Still we had left so early that we managed to get to Comiskey with at least a half hour to spare.

The first game was a scoreless duel until Minoso stepped to the plate and crushed the ball, giving the Sox all the runs they would need for a 2 – 0 win over the Detroit Tigers. The next game was even more fun even though we left at the end of the fourth inning because it was getting late. We felt pretty safe in leaving because the Sox had a 7 – 1 lead and would go on to win it 8 – 2. Minoso went 4 – 5 including a triple, although we didn’t see it because we were already on our way home.

That was the day I went from being a ‘maybe a Cubs fan’ to being a ‘100%’ White Sox fan. Maybe it was Minoso’s home run that did it, but more likely it was it was the fun of sitting in a ballpark and seeing the home team win not one, but two games. Not only that but the Sox were only a half game behind Yankees for first place. The Sox were hot and life was good.

Related story: No one meant more to White Sox than Minoso | whitesox.com.

Dodgers’ employee stung by scorpion in Arizona | Big League Stew – Yahoo Sports

Now that I live in Southern California, just a few hours from the scorpions at Dodgers Arizona complexSox/Dodgers complex in Arizona, I’ve been thinking I would try to make it over there to see a game or two. Would be great to see the New White Sox. Maybe get to see the Sox playing the Dodgers, that would be fun.

Only one thing though… I want to watch the Sox, not the scorpions. It seems the nasty little things have moved into the complex and while the fans are watching the Sox, the scorpions might be watching them.

Dodgers’ employee stung by scorpion in Arizona

Sayings of Caledon Pritz

Not Guessing

“Got my glasses fixed yesterday. I’m really pleased cuz they were cleaned, too. Now I’m not guessing as much when I drive.” ~ Caledon

Barking

“I thought the neighbor’s dog finally went to sleep, but apparently, there was still another hours worth of important barking to do.” ~ Caledon Pritz

Closure

Maybe you’re waiting for closure, even though you’ve already gotten it.” ~ Caledon Pritz

Waste

Life’s a waste of time.” ~ Caledon

Applause

If no one applauds when you walk on stage, does that mean you aren’t there?” ~ Caledon Pritz

Being Old

A man is not old until his ears are too big for his head.” ~ Caledon

Dreams

If you’re not building your own dreams, then whose are you building?” ~ Caledon Pritz

For Some

For some life is a catastrophe, for others it is merely an apostrophe.” ~ Caledon Pritz

Look Out…

“Be careful Mrs. Butterworth, things could get a bit sticky around here.” ~ Caledon Pritz

Gifts

Don’t let the past steal your gifts.” ~ Caledon Pritz

Caviar or Peanut Butter

A $200 ounce of caviar is no more filling that a 20¢ ounce of peanut butter.” ~ Caledon Pritz

The Day

“Either you run the day, or you run away.” ~ Caledon

Yesterday

Yesterday might have been terrible, but stop fretting about it. You made it to today, and that’s good.” ~ Caledon Pritz

Life

A difficult thing about life is letting things be what they are rather than trying to make them what you want them to be” ~ Caledon Pritz

Life… Again

“Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% what happens to you, or is it the other way around?” ~ Caledon Pritz

Funny Thing

“Funny, but the more I worry about what other people think, the more I become somebody else.” ~ Caledon Pritz

Faith

“Faith is the art of holding on to things in spite of your changing moods and circumcision.” ~ Caledon Pritz

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