Tag Archives: top chef

Friday 5 – “Reading” Nonfiction (almost all audio!)


Have I really had no time to read a proper book lately?! Yes, it’s true, much of the books I read have been audio. But audio counts as “reading”, you know. 🙂


My Southern Journey
by Rick Bragg (nonfiction) – must LISTEN

I downloaded this on audio from the library per the recommendation of Modern Mrs. Darcy. It’s a collection of articles written by Rick Bragg, read by the author. His voice is like butter. It just sounds like the south and you want to eat it up. This was a perfect way to pass the time doing housework. It took me away to all the places I’ve been to the south and all the places and times I’ve never been, too. Loved it.


Love is All You Need:
The Revolutionary Bond-Based Approach to Educating Your Dog

by Jennifer Arnold 
(nonfiction) – must read

(The one non-audiobook of this list!) I adored both of Arnold’s books In a Dog’s Heart and Through a Dog’s Eyes, but this one was a much different. Arnold has challenged her thinking and the way her organization trains service dogs. What if we taught our dogs how to make their own choices, not just how to react on command? Her theories (and the research she sites to back it up) are revolutionary. And while she gives tips and strategies on how to accomplish this, I’d love to see it in more of a how-to form, not just text as part of a book like this.

This is very new thinking (or at least not the most popular yet) and will take some time to get some backing, but I really wish there were training facilities and more exposure to this approach!


I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being A Woman
by Nora Ephron (nonfiction, audio) – worth a listen

I chose this as a potential audiobook to listen to with my mom when I drove her back from Green Bay to the Twin Cities, but decided against it after I listened to the first couple of tracks. Instead, I listened to it on my own on my trip to Green Bay for a family reunion.

To be honest, I thought it was going to be too much about aging, but that is really only the beginning of the book. Back in the 90s I loved all of the Nora Ephron rom-coms (which then I just called Meg Ryan movies); so it was quite interesting to hear the literal voice and life stories of the woman behind those works. I especially liked the chapter on her own personal love story: with her New York Apartment. I loved hearing about her passion for the Apthorp building and am curious now to visit the neighborhood one day.


The Princess Diarist
by Carrie Fisher (nonfiction, audio) – worth a read

This is the audiobook I ultimately chose to listen to with my mom on our drive back to MN from Green Bay. I haven’t read any of Fischer’s works before, but I I have heard that she is quite the writer and a comedic one at that.

I am not a Star Wars fan, but my dad was into the original trilogy when it was released when I was young, so I do recognize a lot of from the original works. This book is her behind-the-scenes experience in the making of the movie and her life leading up to her casting. She also reveals some of the details of her affair with Harrison Ford which she wanted to be made public in her own words long after anyone could be scandalized by such news.

While she expresses her remembered experiences with such sass and wit, what I found truly compelling is the sharing of her journals she kept during that time. We didn’t finish the audiobook before we got to MN, so all throughout the week of my mom’s visit, we listened to it whenever we were in the car. My husband didn’t really like listening to Fisher’s voice, commenting on her lisp. But she had another narrator read her journals (perhaps to separate the younger Carrie from her current self).

These journal entries from a 19-20ish Carrie were raw and filled with emotion – poetic and indicative that she truly did have a talent for writing and would for many years to come. The voice of The Princess Diarist as a whole is very different from those journals; but I’m still curious of Fishers other works.


Love, Loss & What We Ate
by Padma Lakshmi (non-fiction, audio) – worth a listen

Truth be told, this book sat on my nightstand and I renewed it three times before I started reading it and it needed to be returned to the library. Then I realized I could download it on my phone with my library’s audiobook app and decided to that. I knew I’d like listening to her voice telling her own story. She has a lot to share. If you love Top Chef or cooking in general, you’ll love this book. If you are a woman, I think you’ll love this book. If you’ve ever struggled with fitting in, believing in yourself or doubting true love, I think you’ll love this book.

Yes, this book filled my hours walking and cleaning and I found it insightful, heart-wrenching and fun all at the same time.


If you read nonfiction, how do you decide on what to read and do you prefer to read or listen?


West Loop – Squeezing it all in!


On our last day in Chicago, our flight didn’t leave until 4:30pm. So we had some more exploring to do! We checked out of our hotel with our little carry-on bags, thinking we would take the “L” to the West Loop area. But on second glance, it was only a 35-minute walk and it was a beautiful day! And we had plenty of time. {For the record, Rob was a gentleman and carried my duffle bag along with his backpack.}

We were meeting up with Beth {aka Biz} from My Bizzy Kitchen at The Little Goat!


I had “The Goat” restaurants on my Chicago restaurant wishlist and Biz suggested Monday would be a great time to have brunch. And she was right. Rob and I arrived a little early and had to do a double take. Sitting on the outside patio of the diner was Stephanie Izard, the winner and first female named Top Chef, who opened this restaurant. I whispered such to Rob. He recognized her, too, even though I don’t think he was yet watching Top Chef during that season. Celebrity Sighting #2! {#1 in this post.}

I told Rob that we are going to have to be sure to tell Biz when she arrived. But she beat us to it! And… she was a little more courageous to ask to have a picture with her!

I’ve been following My Bizzy Kitchen for a while now. I’m not sure how I found Biz, but I somehow just felt connected. While the blog is about her Bizzy Kitchen {duh} and the many fantastic recipes she’s continuously creating; she also shares a lot going on in her life on a daily basis – and tells it like it is! I was completely heartbroken when I learned that her husband passed away a year ago December. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be in her shoes, to lose your husband in your forties, when he was only in his fifties.

But Biz presses on… She’s now quit a job she didn’t love and is pursuing all interests. I love this attitude. I felt like we knew each other before meeting her; but after meeting her in person, I can tell how she gets things done. This woman is full speed ahead!

She and I share a love of great food {I mean, she comments on my restaurant posts on the regular and doesn’t even live in the Twin Cities!} and snowmen {although I think she has a bit more of an obsession!} While she and Rob share a love of all things Reuben. I think it’s sweet that she says she thinks of Rob whenever she is about to try a raved about burger! At one point in our conversation, she apologized to Rob for swearing so much. {But in a sorry-I’m-not-sorry kind of way. Tee hee.} Rob laughed. Later, he told me he thought she’d fit right in with us if she lived in Mpls!

But back to the Little Goat Diner


Personally, I think Rob and Biz got the most boring meals… 🙂

Biz had a long day ahead of her in downtown Chicago, so she started with a balanced healthy breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon {not pictured: fruit cup & hot sauce – but not together!}. I’ll cut her some slack for that one. 🙂 Rob, per his habit of late, ordered two sides: sausage links and hashbrowns. On separate occasions, he stated:

“This is the best sausage I’ve ever had!”

“These are the best hash browns I’ve ever had!”

I loved everything goat-themed… from the plates, to the coffee mugs, to the glasses… So cute!


But no, I wasn’t adventurous enough to order goat. I’ve never had it; so I think it would be best for me to taste it first. But, I was eyeing a dish that Biz had mentioned people tell her they like at this resto:

THIS LITTLE PIGGY WENT TO CHINA - $14.00 sesame cheddar biscuit. sunny eggs. szechuan pork sausage. chili garlic chive sauce. blackberries

THIS LITTLE PIGGY WENT TO CHINA – sesame cheddar biscuit. sunny eggs. szechuan pork sausage. chili garlic chive sauce. blackberries – $14

Dear God was this crazy good! I liked the sweet and savory combo with the blackberries and the spice in the sausage and sauce. But I could only eat half of this! After that breakfast, I wasn’t sure if there was any way we could fit an Au Cheval burger into the mix for Rob before our flight that day.

Thanks, Biz, for taking the time out to come to downtown Chicago to meet up with us! We have a little somethin’ Minnesotan comin’ your way…


When we parted ways, Biz was going to get her first passport {I’m so excited for her about this!}… It was about 10:45am.

There was already a line at Au Cheval, located at the end of the block…


Neither of us could even think about eating there; but we still wanted to check a box or two in the West Loop. We popped into a meat shop {We were in the former meat packing district!} since Rob loves shopping for beef sticks. Unfortunately, this establishment only sold raw/not processed meat, so out we went.

On the corner of West Randolph sat Haymarket Pub & Brewery. I hadn’t remembered seeing this on any best of lists or guidebooks; but it didn’t matter. We weren’t in it for the food. Maybe we’d see what sytles of beer they had to offer and grab a pint.


Haymarket gets its name from the Haymarket Affair of 1886. The memorial sculpture of which, is located just blocks away. These are the beers we chose. I bet you can tell which one is mine and which one is Rob’s!


Defender American Stout & Mathias Imperial American IPA 

Read the descriptions. I love how the IPA was named. Very appropriate…


And because they offer 4-ouncers for just $1.75, I just had to try the Red Sock Monkey Tart Cherry Wheat in honor of my nephew.IMG_6644

To be quite honest, that first beer did not go down very well. It tasted just fine, but I think I was just too full for it. It took me a lonnnngggg time to drink it. The Tart Cherry Wheat was a little more easy-drinking for me that day and I quite honestly ordered it only because they offered it in such a small glass!

It wasn’t until about 1pm that Rob and I considered going over to Au Cheval for their infamous burger, agreeing that we would split it – if  we could get in. After checking in with the host and letting him know that we were happy to sit at the bar, I found out that only the seats at the end were open seating.


The host even seats people at the bar. I mean, why not?! They are busy enough! He said to hang tight. It would just be a couple of minutes because he had a few couples cashing out… Before we knew it, we were at the bar…
IMG_6649…watching the most incredible entertainment… of burger-making and assembly that we’ve ever seen!


Just imagine the heat coming off that grill! There is a broiler up top where the buns are toasted, too. They work in batches. First, one guy rattles off the orders to the three chefs behind the bar. His job seems to consist of just that and wiping down plates for perfect presentation. Here is the station where he calls out the new orders to the three chefs behind the bar.


From what we gathered, each chef memorizes his/her part and repeats it back. Then they scurry around putting everything together! They all seemed to be having fun working together.


For the record, this is the cheese used on Au Cheval burgers:

It was such a fun show to watch from our front-and-center seats!

Although cheeseburgers seemed to be the staple, there is much, much more to this menu:


We also saw salmon, salads, hash and eggs being made. Still, mostly burgers. Oh… and fries. We loved watching them season everything, too! Tossing the fries, sprinkling chives on the fried eggs. There was no bartender waiting on us. We had an actual server, who took our order behind us.


And then, our perfection arrived.

And trust me, by 1:30, my appetite was back. We get why this is an OMG burger. Those fries are underrated, too… and served with mayo!!!! Splitting this burger and fries was the perfect amount. We got our final dose of food and entertainment in Chicago all wrapped in one.

Where’s your favorite place to be entertained while you dine?

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