Astoux et Brun and Other Spots | Cannes, France

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Cannes, is well-known for its yearly film festival, so it's definitely a touristy spot. I was a little bit worried about this.  Since it was closer to the end of the summer, I thought it would be a great time to visit. It was a lot smaller than I thought it would be, but this worked to our advantage. We ended up walking everywhere and parked the rental for the entire duration of our stay. For this part of our trip, Markus and I had two objectives, eat and tan. As soon as we arrived at our hotel, we quickly changed into our suits and headed to the rooftop pool to relax. It was so lovely and we spent a couple hours up there and met a nice couple from Canada. After baking in the sun, we worked up an appetite and headed out for some delicious food.

Since we were near the ocean, we knew we wanted to eat seafood. I found the highly-rated and popular restaurant Astoux et Brun. The food was really good and very fresh. All of France is pretty pricey when it comes to food, but I didn't think the prices were too high, especially for the atmosphere, quality and service. For our meal, we ordered half a dozen oysters, moules frites and whitefish in a white wine sauce. To wash it all down, we ordered a nice bottle of white wine and enjoyed our meal outside. Before dinner, we passed by a gelato shop that shaped the cones into flowers. I saw similar desserts all over social media, so I knew I wanted that for dessert. I got pistachio and vanilla and it was the perfect combination for a hot and humid night.  Overall, it was the perfect relaxing day I wanted and had been waiting for. 

Le Train Bleu | Paris, France

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Le Train Bleu is a stunningly beautiful restaurant that was built for the Exposition Universelle in 1900. It's located in the Gare de Lyon station and is a full service restaurant. Le Train Bleu is an incredible restaurant that takes you back to another time period. The restaurant is covered in elaborate and ornate decorations and 41 original paintings from popular artists from that time period. Markus and I kept talking about what it must've been like to travel by train and stop in for a meal. It must've been a stunner in it's heyday. 

When I saw photos of the restaurant, I knew that I wanted this to be where we spent our last night in Paris. We couldn't have chosen a more magical and perfect place. I knew the minute we walked in that it would be a meal and experience unlike any other I've had before. We ordered the foie gras, liver mousse, veal cutlet, roasted leg of lamb, blue cheese potato gratin and ended with the rum baba, which came with a whole bottle of rum. You know I liked that part! Our meal was so decadent and really delicious. My favorites were the foie gras and the blue cheese potato gratin. If you know me, you know I love pate, liver mousse and foie, so that was a no brainer. The real surprise was the gratin because I don't normally go for potatoes, but these were a game changer. We kept ordering and eating even though I was stuffed. I think it was because I didn't want to leave. It also helped that the servers were hilarious and kept telling funny jokes. Overall, our experience at Le Train Bleu was unforgettable and I'm pleased that it was where we spent our last evening in the City of Lights. 

Saved By The Max | Chicago, Illinois

Even though I was born in the 80s, I'm truly a 90s kid at heart. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the 80s, but most of the things I remember are from the 90s. Like any kid who grew up in the 90s, I was obsessed with Saved by the Bell. When we heard that there was going to be a pop-up of The Max, we snatched up tickets so we wouldn't miss out. 

Markus, Josh and I decided to dress in 90s clothes to really get a feel for the atmosphere. Saved by the Max is a really great throwback and really brings back the nostalgia of the 90s. I was squealing the whole time and obsessed with everything. Poor Markus and Josh had to deal with me freaking out about every little thing. I will say that the food wasn't that great. The names of the dishes were really creative, but nothing stood out and kinda made us all sick the next day. Eek, sorry, but that's not why you go to a place like Saved by the Max. It's all about the atmosphere and all the memories it brings up. For a 90s lover like me, that's worth it. 

Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor & Museum | Columbus, Indiana

The summer of last year, Markus and I went on a last minute road trip to Kentucky. We were both itching to get out of the city and explore somewhere new. After a little bit of research, we found out that Louisville wasn't too far and there were a few nice stops along the way. One of these places was Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor and Museum.  

Zaharakos opened October 20, 1900 and can be found in the small town of Columbus, Indiana. Originally, three Greek brothers opened a candy shop but over time it evolved into an ice cream parlor. There was a lot of thought and care put into the look and it's covered with carved oak, marble and tiffany glass. It was stunning and so beautiful. Also, there was more than just ice cream on the menu. They have salads, sandwiches and even different kinds of soda from their vintage soda fountain. I'm so glad that we made the effort to stop, because it's not every day you find something from the 1900s. Markus and I live for places like this and love old roadside attractions. We make it a point to find places just like Zaharakos. The atmospere was definitley 1900s and it really felt like stepping back in time. It was the perfect stop on the way to Louisville! 

Intro | Chicago Restaurant Week 2017

Chicago is one of the best food cities in the country and the hub of fine dining in the Midwest. There’s no shortage of fancy restaurants, and there is one for almost every cuisine: Mexican, Vietnamese, vegetarian, you name it and we’ve got it. One restaurant that is breaking the mold is Intro. The concept is pretty unique and ingenuitive. Chefs and mixologists collaborate with Executive Chef Stephen Gillanders to create an original menu while working a “residency.” They don’t really focus on one type of cuisine and the menu is constantly changing and evolving. So, it’s possible to never eat the same thing twice at Intro.

For this residency, Executive Chef Gillanders, Chef Aaron Martinez, and Chef CJ Jacobson take on Chinese and dim sum. These unique dishes are inspired by their travels around the world. I remember Chef Jacobson from Top Chef and was very excited to try his food. I even spotted him running around the dining room visiting with friends.

Finding Intro proved to be a bit difficult at first, because it’s nestled inside the Belden-Stratford Luxury Apartments and shares it’s space with Naoki Sushi. The Belden-Stratford’s lobby has a bit of an old world feel and is the complete opposite of Intro’s modern and contemporary vibe. It’s cozy and the music selection is on point, with a lot of Bowie and New Order. Even though it’s an upscale joint, it never feels pretentious. Our server was personable, attentive and very knowledgeable. Let’s be honest though, the real star of Intro is the food, which infuses traditional Chinese dishes with modern and interesting flavors. There are lots of tasty items on the menu, but the stand-out dishes are the duck fried rice and the caramel-lacquered short rib. If there is one thing that is a must-order, it would be the black truffle-egg drop soup. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.

If you happen to find yourself in Lincoln Park and have a hankering for Chinese food, give Intro a shot while you can. Who know’s when the menu will change, but either way, it will be a win for sure.

Vegetable Dim Sum: grilled cabbage with numbing spice, bok choy with chicken sausage, and Szechuan tofu and crispy kale

Though the grilled cabbage was a simple dish, the grilled cabbage was very tasty and had an unexpected complexity of flavor. The bok choy with chicken sausage was nice and savory with multiple textures of crispiness from the bok choy, softness from sausage and crunchiness from the cashews. Most people don't enjoy tofu, but it's one of my favorite things when it's done right and here, it was done right. I loved the spiciness of the sauce and the freshness from the crispy kale. 

Hot Dim Sum: bbq mushroom bao with sesame mayo, crispy shrimp lollipops, and pearl meatballs with chicken

Bao is one of my favorite kinds of snacks and I was very excited to taste Intro's version. I enjoyed the bbq mushroom and I'm a sucker for sesame anything. The crispy shrimp lollipops were so crunchy and light on the brininess of the shrimp. The sauce was amazing and the perfect accompaniment. I could've eaten those all night. My least favorite course of the night were the pearl meatballs. I love dumplings almost as much as bao and these were disappointing. I know they weren't a tradional dumpling, but the rice coating was weird and the chicken filling was flavorless. 

Off Menu: black truffle-egg drop soup with ginger and scallion and the Beijing duck fried rice

Duck can be oily and overdone, but this fried rice was absolutely perfect. The rice had little bits of meat in it and was topped with a savory duck egg to mix. The best part was the crispy bits of skin that added a nice texture and flavor to the whole dish. The black truffle-egg drop soup was a revelation and my favorite dish of the night. There was no imitation truffle or truffle oil in this dish. This was the real deal and man was it delicious. The soup was rich and complex, and the truffle blended so well with the egg, ginger and scallion. It's an unforgettable dish that you’ll want to have again and again.

Large: curry noodles with lemongrass and ginger and caramel-lacquered short rib

The curry noodles was a great noodle/soup course, the texture of the noodles was perfectly al dente and the lemongrass really came through without overpowering the dish. Overall I enjoyed it and it reminded me a bit of Singaporean laksa. The caramel flavoring on the short rib was really creative and something unexpected. Also, I've never had such tender beef before; it literally melted in my mouth. 

Dessert: Hong Kong-style tart brulee

The custard was reminiscent of an egg tart that you could find at a traditional Chinese bakery. It was silky with just the right amount of sweetness. The crust was flaky and the hard caramel was a great compliment to the custard. It was the perfect end to an incredible meal.