Thursday, November 16, 2017

Favorite Places in Chicago

The Bean
Once again, I hear that a friend is going someplace, and that triggers a new post! This time, I can blame Kevin Heinonen, General Manager/Owner of Tinderbox Kitchen, the Annex Cocktail Lounge, and Tourist Home Urban Market. He's off to Chicago, so here are my favorites.

445 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654
Rick Bayless' fine dining restaurant, this place serves Mexican food as we Americans never imagined it. Incredibly refined, subtle flavors and gorgeous presentation. I loved every course.

Gino's pizza
Gino's East
162 E Superior St
Chicago, IL 60611
Iconic Chicago style pizza. There are many deep dish places to choose from, but this is my favorite. This was one of three stops for the GoalBusters Pizza Crawl, where we rented a stretch Hummer for 20 of our closest AFP friends and toured Gino's, the Signature Lounge at the top of the Hancock, and Lou Malnati's. Tons of fun.

View from the Lounge
Signature Lounge at the 96th
John Hancock Center
875 N. Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
Beautiful views from the 96th floor of the Hancock Center. Keep this in mind when you gripe about the drink prices. Strangely enough, the ladies' room has one of the best panoramas of the city.

Like they said.
Billy Goat Tavern
430 N. Michigan Ave at Lower Level
Chicago, IL 60611
This is the original location. It's below street level, and not refined at all. That's why you go. Yes, you get a cheezborger and a beer. And chips.

Al's Italian Beef
Al's Italian Beef
Multiple locations throughout the Chicago area
It's another fast food icon in the Chicago area, and has been on many travel shows. It really is a great sandwich.

1723 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60614
One of the many creative courses at Alinea, pre-reboot 
Bucket list experience. Truly. Totally worth the hype. I went prior to the big reboot of the concept, so I can't directly testify to the experience now, but I'm sure it's still top notch. Make sure you've made a payment recently on your credit card so you can load it back up here.

Still haven't found my favorite hot dog place. Time to visit again.

Dessert at Alinea 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Favorite Places in Amsterdam

It's early in the morning and I'm jet lagged, as I just got back from the International Fundraising Congress (IFC), produced by The Resource Alliance. This conference is held every October in Noordwijk, The Netherlands, just outside of Amsterdam, and is a gathering of thought leaders and innovators in the charitable/philanthropic/NGO sector. This was only my second trip to The Netherlands, but I've already developed a short list of "must do" places in Amsterdam. So here are a few of my picks, from a total newbie tourist perspective!

De Drie Fleshjes
Gravenstraat 18 (behind the New Church)
1012 NM  Amsterdam
+31 (0)20 624 8443

Mon-Sat » 2:00 - 8:30 PM
Sun » 3:00 - 7:00 PM

360 photo by Jim Anderson

I think this is my favorite bar in the world. This is the place for jenever and beer. Please don't come in fussing about Sauvignon Blanc. David (in the picture above) has been our bartender three of the four times we were here, and he remembered us by visit two! He was very helpful about guiding us through the multiple styles of jenever and the history of the bar. Go old school and have oude jenever and a Heineken. You also must drink the jenever properly, as shown here. This bar has been in operation since 1650, and holds claim to being the oldest bar in Amsterdam. While this place has been on many travel shows, it has never seemed crowded.

Restaurant Haesje Claes
Spuistraat 273-275
1012 VR Amsterdam
Tel. +31 20 6249998

Open 7 days a week, 12:00 H-24.00 H (Last kitchen orders at 22.00 H)

A post shared by Alice Ferris (@aliceferris) on

This was one of my favorite meals of this trip. Lively atmosphere and appropriately old setting for a solid Dutch meal. We started with herring and jenever, which was a great pairing to cut through the oiliness of the fish. We then moved on to the eel soup, which tastes strongly of the mustard and the smokiness of the eel--it had more of a meaty taste than fish. We split the shrimp krokketen, and then had two generous entrees: the marrow peas and the sauerkraut stamppot. These are definitely winter weather foods! Heavy, but in a comfort food way. The staff is very friendly and helpful with the menu if you have questions. Natalia, our server, was fun to banter with! Great food, service, and a good value.

Cafe Loetje
Johannes Vermeerstraat 52
1071 DT Amsterdam
020-662 81 73

Open 7 days a week from 10:00 a.m.
Kitchen is open until 10:30 p.m.

A post shared by Alice Ferris (@aliceferris) on

Another "light" lunch at this classic. Everyone on Yelp and Trip Advisor said to order one of the steaks. That was good advice. Their filets are prepared in butter, and you have your choice of just butter, the spicy version ("Bali") or the "de Roode Waard" version, which has onions, bacon, and chicken livers. We, of course, went all in, and ordered the "loaded" one, and it was delicious.

Kalfsvlees krokketen
FEBO (website is in Dutch only)
Multiple locations around The Netherlands, hours vary

These are old fashioned automats, and they serve fried nuggets of goodness. Krokketen are a big thing in The Netherlands: breaded, fried snacks with a meat and gravy filling. If you have exact change, usually 1.80-3 euros, you can get the snack from the vending machine. If you don't, that's okay, you can order at the counter and have your krokket made fresh.

Singel 498
Amsterdam centrum
tel.:+31(0) 20 625 32 64

Open daily at 12:00

I've been hunting for rijstafel, the Indonesian "rice table," which is a collection of small dishes served family style. We've been to three restaurants so far, and this one is the best. There are many more restaurants serving rijstafel in Amsterdam, so I'm sure there are other great ones, but I like this one. Atmosphere is cozy and the service was good.

Cafe Bern
Nieuwmarkt 9
1011 JR  Amsterdam
telephone +31 20 622 00 34 (from 3:00 pm)
Open 7 days a week: 4:00 pm – 1:00 am
kitchen: 6:00 pm – 11:00 pm

One of the few places where I have no photos! This was a nice surprise in Nieuwmarket. They have a brief menu, but everyone is there for the fondue. The cheese fondue is decadently rich, as you would expect, but the surprise for me was the Steak Bern, which you cook at your table on a metal plate of Bearnaise sauce. So good. Mostly Dutch here, but they do have an English menu if you ask. Communal tables and a tight squeeze in this cafe, so don't bring a big bag!

Number 11: Bananas, bacon and chile with added cheese
Pancakes Amsterdam
Multiple locations, but we go to
Prins Hendrikkade 48, 1012 AC Amsterdam
Phone: +31 (0)20 820 42 40

Open daily from 8:00 to 20:00

Dutch pancakes are very thin and can be simple: traditional ones are just cheese, or ham and cheese, or a little bit of fruit. But, in the name of excess, we start piling on the toppings! My favorite it number 11, with bananas, bacon, and chiles. I added grated Dutch cheese this time and it was fabulous. This is a "card only" establishment, but tips are accepted in cash. It's also first come, first served, which sometimes makes the queue awkward, because if there is a party of 6 next in line, they will wait until a table for 6 is open, even if they have several tables for two available. If you find yourself behind a large party, it doesn't hurt to step up to the front and ask about a smaller table.

Veal Tonnato
Restaurant Van Kerkwijk
Nes 41
1012 KC Amsterdam
+31 20 6203316

Open 11:00-1:00 daily

This is a charming little place near Dam Square with a spoken menu, so everything changes day to day. The servers are friendly and helpful, and the european style fare is a little bit lighter than the heavy Dutch food we spent most of the time eating.

I'm looking forward to adding to this list next year at IFC 2018!

This post originally appeared on Alice's Restaurants.

Monday, September 18, 2017

In memoriam: Ed from Yuma

I found out this morning that my Yuma food mentor, Ed Davis, aka "Ed in Yuma," aka "Ed Dibble," passed away this weekend.

I first met Ed via Chowhound, back when it was a very simple, online foodie bulletin board. Yelp and Instagram didn't exist, so random people from around the world posted thoughts and suggestions about what and where to eat on this discussion group. Being new to Yuma in 2006, I figured I should check out the food scene, and the only person posting on a regular basis from Yuma was this guy, "Ed Dibble." I am embarrassed how long it took me to figure out the humor in his handle.

I followed Ed's posts religiously. If he suggested a place, I would try to find it. I didn't find them all, but most of the ones that he suggested (that are still around) are now long time favorites.

Since there was no way to direct message someone on Chowhound, I had to hint on posts a few times that I'd like to meet Ed someday. I thought maybe I'd just happen to run into him at some point. Since I work with KAWC, Yuma's public radio station, I'm not hard to find, and Ed started dropping hints on his posts that he knew who I was.

Then, during one on-air pledge drive, Ed actually came to the studio! AND I WAS ON THE AIR! NOOOO! I missed my chance!

Luckily, our mutual friend, Ellen, knew I was stalking him, and graciously set up dinner to connect us. We had a grand time meeting Ed and Tina, and I continued, after that, to stalk his food posts, through his blog.

I am truly sad that I never got to have dinner with Ed at his favorite Chinese restaurant, Yummy Yummy. And that I never got to cook for him to make him some of my favorites.

In his honor, here are my favorite Yuma restaurants that were originally from Ed's list. And I will make it a point on my next trip to try some new places and write about them.

I hope you're having a great banquet, wherever you are now, Ed. Godspeed, and bon appetit!

Coconut Curry Shrimp at River City Grill
River City Grill
600 W 3rd St Yuma, AZ

One of the nicest restaurants in Yuma, and owner Nan Bain is a huge supporter of public radio, particularly our station, KAWC. We've been eating here since our first visit to Yuma and have really eaten everything on the menu. My favorites are the roasted red pepper and tomato bisque, the coconut curry shrimp, the tequila snapper, and the pistachio crusted salmon or chicken. They are also a great option if you need vegan or gluten free options.

Previous post for River City Grill here.

Tacos y Mariscos Juanita’s
SW Corner of S Avenue A & W 8th St Yuma, AZ 85364
Juanita's Campechana

Juanita's has the very best seafood cocktail in Yuma. Hands down, end of conversation. I love the campechana, which is the "everything" seafood cocktail, including shrimp, scallops, oysters, octopus and squid, and sometimes conch, depending on the day. The broth that the seafood rests in is the most delicious part. Add a little hot sauce, and it's a perfect meal on a sunny, but not too hot, day. Juanita's is a semi-permanent taco truck--it has a sign, outdoor seating, and rest rooms, but the truck drives home at the end of the day. It's also only open during daylight hours, because there's no outside lighting, and hours vary during the summer months. It's helpful if you know a teeny bit of Spanish, although on the weekends, the young man who typically is there expediting orders and busing tables can help with translation if needed. Bring cash.

Cheese crisp at Los Manjares de Pepe II
Los Manjares de Pepe II (Foothills Location)
11274 S Fortuna Rd, YumaAZ 85367

I used to go to the original location on 8th Street every trip for the Pepe Special, a tomatillo stewed pork. I still love the Pepe Special, but now I get it at their Foothills location, because it's 1) closer to the station, and 2) a little better, I think. Located at the very end of a strip mall, around the corner from the main stretch of the mall, this tiny restaurant produces excellent Mexican food. I am a big fan of the carnitas dinner as well as the cheese crisp, which I think is the best in Yuma.

The Patio at Desert Hills Golf Course
1245 W Desert Hills Dr, YumaAZ 85365

The restaurant at the Desert Hills Municipal Golf Course, worth the trip. The jalapeno margarita is incredible, and favorite starters are the chicharron, the bacon wrapped shrimp and the stuffed medjool dates. Ed's post is much more detailed than mine, with good pictures, since I can't find mine.

Thanks for some great meals, Ed.