27 September 2010

Sunday in the Park with George

Yesterday afternoon, we went to see the Porchlight Music Theatre's production of Sunday in the Park with George, the Stephen Sondheim musical about Georges Seurat and the making of his masterpiece A Sunday on La Grande Jatte

It's a beautifully done show, extremely moving, with some sharp insights about artists and the art-making process and business. The whole cast does justice to the remarkable score, and the simple set is lovely.


Thieves Like Us

We started subscribing to the House Theatre of Chicago last year, with some trepidation.  There is so much great theater around town that it seems limiting to commit to a particular troupe, and we travel so much that there is a real concern about whether we can make every show.  On the other hand, House subscriptions are about as cheap as they could be, and go to support some of our favorite Chicago artists and performers.

This season's inaugural show is Thieves Like Us, based on a 1930s-era novel by Richard Anderson and adapted by local playwright Damon Kiely. Like most House Theatre shows, it features creative scene-setting and staging; for example, when main characters hop into their (invisible) getaway car, other cast members parade along the stage holding up newsprint drawings of the scenery the automobile passes on its journey.

Imaginative touches like these, and an enigmatic (and magnetic) torch singer who appears and disappears, like a phantom of protagonist Bowie Bowers' mind, elevate the show beyond its pulpy, noir material (nice guy falls in with the wrong crowd, gets in trouble, lands in jail, gets in more trouble, falls in love with nice girl, tries to get out of trouble, fails).  So do an array of fine performances from the cast who are--as typical at the House--terrifically energetic.

In spite of a sad ending, it's an invigorating show.

09 September 2010

Another Day, Another Gadget

Our new flat-screen TV is Internet-enabled, which means we can stream Netflix movies, and access Amazon Video on Demand, which is almost embarrassingly exciting.  But yesterday I realized we can't easily access video content from iTunes (which was embarrassingly disappointing).  Our Blu-Ray player has an iPod dock, but that only facilitates music play; it doesn't transmit video.  We have a cable to connect my iPhone directly to the TV, but that transmits only visuals without sound.

So after scouring the Web for hours, looking at cables, docks, and other devices, I've concluded that the easiest and most cost-effective option is an Apple TV.  It offers some redundant services (for example, Netflix streaming), but also offers the prospect of a better remote interface (using my iPhone via the Remote app), access to iTunes content, and ultimately (in November or so), the ability to wirelessly stream content from any of my devices to my TV.

So is the PC-user becoming Apple-fied?   Somewhat.  But after I had to replace my Airport Extreme because it couldn't sustain a VPN connection, I'm inclined to persist with a mixed environment.

08 September 2010


Did not want to put down this mystery. The protagonist, Lena, is a fingerprint expert confronted with a crime that might just be a statistical blip--a surprising number of crib deaths (SIDS) within a couple of months.  Because of her unexpected success resolving a previous child murder, Lena, almost pathologically private, is the target of enormous attention and expectation from the public as well as her colleagues.

While Lena is not at all sure there is a crime, to start, something about the case troubles her, and leads her to explore her own past more persistently (she was raised by foster parents).  As the investigation progresses, certain details and even pieces of evidence seem to point back to the mystery of her own origin. 

Beautifully written with a compellingly diverse cast of characters; convincingly set in depressed Syracuse, New York; a really terrific read.

03 September 2010


This is a beautiful, moving novel. The book is ostensibly a romance--a love affair between an Iraqi-American chef and an Iraqi emigre academic--but it is also about loss, and the power of rituals, like cooking, eating, and storytelling, to heal.

02 September 2010

Someone I Used to Know

I am reading a novel by someone I used to know.  Not very well; Diana was a grad student when I was an undergrad: I admired her from afar.  She was tall, blond, slim, and (to me) grownup and glamorous.  Her boyfriend--just as tall, slim, and handsome--was he a grad student in a different department?--added to the glamor.

She was the first person I ever saw wear black stirrup pants.  I remember asking her where she got them, and her bemusement at my admiration. Black stirrup pants became my uniform (under a white dress shirt) for at least a handful of years. (My husband periodically evinces nostalgia for them: "You used to always wear stirrup pants. What happened?") I remember mean-spirited voices criticizing her work as beautiful, but too opaque, difficult.  She is probably the person I most wanted to be when I was 19 or 20.

I never did become her, though. Never that slim, nor that alluring, and nobody ever accused me of opacity (quite the opposite).

But I became her reader, and happily find her work engaging, actually wholly delightful.

01 September 2010

Out Stealing Horses

This book was recommended by my friend Stephanie recently; she even offered me a money-back guarantee.  No refund was needed, however: Out Stealing Horses is one of the best novels I've read this year.

Per Petterson's novel demonstrates Hemingway's famous maxim, "The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water," as perfectly as anything I've ever read.  As I read I kept thinking the novel was about one thing, and it kept turning out to be about something else, also. This happened repeatedly. So a coming of age story about a teenage boy is also a story about an an almost-old man preparing for being old and alone, and it is also a story about the limits of human relationships, and it is also a story about how we cope with disaster, and it is also a story about resistance to Nazi occupation, and it is also a story about adultery.

Oh yes, and it is also a story about stealing horses.

I have read some online reviews of this book that complain the novel has no plot.  On the contrary, there is an astounding abundance of plot.  You just have to read almost as quietly and attentively as the author writes, or you could miss it all.

30 August 2010

Despicable Me

This movie was not despicable enough.


I probably picked this movie because I'm nuts about Fanny Ardant. Plus, Gerard Depardieu is in it. Another movie about infidelity; in this one, a jealous wife hires a prostitute to seduce her unfaithful husband.  Her motivations are obscure: is she seeking to entrap him, to put his infidelities under her control, or does she simply get off on the prostitute's graphic descriptions of their time together?

It's not a fun movie to watch, but well done, with an unexpected conclusion.

I'll Sleep When I'm Dead

No, not the great Warren Zevon song, but the Clive Owen movie.  Sadly.  Because it's not a very good movie, even though it contains Clive Owen, and Charlotte Rampling, and even Malcolm McDowell.  But cast isn't everything.  It's a grim story, about a retired gangster who believes he's wasted his life; and through the course of the movie nothing really changes. You meet grim or feckless characters, you wait for bad things to happen, they do, and the movie just goes on.When the movie ends, it's not clear why it ended then as opposed to any other time.

Probably if it had starred almost anyone aside from Clive Owen, I wouldn't have had the patience to sit through it.  That, and hoping something more would come of Charlotte Rampling's presence in it.

I guess no one is immune to being wasted.

26 August 2010

Being My Own IT Department

Sometimes, being my own IT Department gets old. No one can solve my technical problems but me, which can be rewarding, but also dismaying.  Dread of long stays in hold limbo with electronics manufacturers can keep me from resolving some issues for a ridiculously long time--like how my laptop stopped starting in its docking station.  I'm not even sure where the problem is--with the laptop, or the docking station? 

But in the five-plus years we've lived in this apartment, I've endured a worse problem (after all, the laptop starts perfectly outside the docking station, and then I can just dock it), which is that our wi-fi network just barely extends into my home office.  It is not a matter of distance--our apartment isn't so terribly large--but rather, interference.  Something in the kitchen--maybe the microwave, or pipes in the wall--doesn't like the wi-fi signal and degrades it to nearly nothing between one end of the room and the other (and my office is just past the other end of the kitchen).  For a while I tried a wi-fi extender, which helped, but was prone to signal drops and also interfered with Victor's VPN access.  Then we got a new router, at the recommendation of a guy from Best Buy who said we should have better equipment if we were going to stream video to our new Blu-Ray player, and it wasn't compatible with the wi-fi extender.  Then we found that it also wasn't compatible with Victor's VPN, and also was prone to signal drops, so we got yet another router.

This router has worked well so far, but the wi-fi still barely extends into my home office.  So I tried a new solution I just learned about: ethernet through electrical lines.  You plug this adapter into the wall outlet, and connect an Ethernet cable from your router to the adapter.  You plug its partner adapter into a wall outlet in another room (for example, the room in which you have a Blu-Ray player to which you want to stream video) and connect another Ethernet cable from that adapter to the Blu-Ray player.  And then get another adapter, and plug it into the wall in your home office, and connect yet another Ethernet cable, this time to your docking station.  And it works!  Best Internet connection I've had in here!

So today I'm my own genius IT Department. Tomorrow, of course, I'll be an idiot again...

02 July 2010

My New Favorite Tree

At the very end of May--actually, while participating in Bike the Drive--I began to notice a really intriguing, almost tropical smell outside. I thought I might have smelled something like it in Hawaii, or at least Southern California.

After a week's investigation, I traced the smell to a particular, large old tree with yellowish flowers. Something tickled my memory. When we first moved into our house in Columbus, we asked a landscaper for advice about shade trees. He suggested the linden--he said the flowers had a nice mild scent. As it turned out, there were no lindens at the local nursery. We were told they were not often available--sort of out of style, though they had been very popular at one time.

Hmm...nice-smelling, big old shade tree. Looked up the linden on Wikipedia, and my mystery was solved. Of course, once I identified it, I saw and smelled the trees everywhere. When we visited our friends in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan last weekend, there was one in their yard, just beginning to bloom, not yet releasing its scent (the season starts later that far north).

Here, though, the tantalizing aroma is about gone (Wikipedia notes June as the month for smelling lindens, and that's certainly true in Chicago), but the trees are still laden with bees.

Collecting nectar for linden-blossom honey, no doubt.

22 June 2010

No Exit, by The Hypocrites

Although The Hypocrites are among my favorite Chicago theater companies, I went to this performance of Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit with some trepidation. It's a play I read and loved in high school as the profoundest thing ever; and like many things I found profound in high school, its profundity has worn off. 

("Hell is other people" no longer feels like a dagger in the heart.)

But The Hypocrites have done a splendid job with this staging, which leverages a hot-pink set, a room with walls angled so that you feel claustrophobic on the actors' behalf before the play even begins. The production toys beautifully with preconceptions of hell; even as the valet assures the room's first inmate, Garcin, that there are no torture chambers, both their faces are drenched with sweat from what we can only imagine are hellfires.

This is not a play with a happy ending, but the performers attack their roles with such energy and humor that you walk out grinning. 

An excellent show.

Baal, by TUTA Chicago

TUTA Chicago has been devoted to Bertolt Brecht this year, with an excellent production of The Wedding a few months ago, and, now playing, Baal.  TUTA is one of my favorite Chicago companies for its exuberant, inventive stagings of classic and sometimes difficult plays (from Romeo and Juliet to Uncle Vanya) as well as its spirited approach to contemporary material (such as Huddersfield).  TUTA's production of Baal incorporates music by Josh Schmidt, whose score for the Writer's Theatre's  A Minister's Wife we loved so much.

The production is everything I expect from TUTA: ambitious, creative, musically surprising, and full of committed performances.  But I'm afraid I did not enjoy Baal that much--a difficult play--Brecht's first--centered on a supremely unlikeable character. Knowing it was a parody of German Expressionism--from reading the dramaturge's precis--was helpful; the actors don't play it like parody, though.  Doubtless quite right, but it makes the evening hard to bear.

Northerly Island, Rediscovered

The first time I was on Northerly Island, it was 2004 and I was lost. Victor and I were trying to take the lakefront bike path south, and somehow got sidetracked onto this narrow peninsula. We didn't know that it used to be an airport. We just knew we couldn't get where we wanted to go from there, and it was a windy day and we were tired. We ended up surrendering the attempt to bike south of the Museum Campus that day; we didn't try again for a few years. (Now we have a hard time imagining how we could have lost our way.)

On foot, I have returned to the mainland edge of Northerly Island a couple of times in the past few years to eavesdrop on concerts, but only ventured there by bike for the first time (since that 2004 confusion) as part of a Chicago Architecture Foundation tour. The tour had its drawbacks (rather long and slow and continuing right through lunchtime--enough to make anybody cranky), but I am grateful for the re-introduction to Northerly Island, which has become a stunning natural area with well-paved bike/walking paths and amazing views.

I went back to Northerly Island on my own yesterday morning and was thrilled to glimpse my first Dickcissel--a beautiful and persistent singer. I would have loved to linger and confirm the sighting, but the skies were dark and thunder rumbled; I headed home to avoid the storm.

This morning, with hardly a cloud in sight, I rode my bike there again, and this time looped the "island" three times, in my delight at being in such a gorgeous environment, full of wildflowers, bunnies, and birdsong. I easily confirmed the Dickcissel and added my first really positive identification of the Savannah Sparrow--I may well have seen one before, but now I'm sure I have. They were all over the peninsula, trilling from perches on bare branches, tall grasses, and even from mowed ground.

It was hard to make myself leave. Northerly Island has become one of my favorite places in Chicago, offering beauty, nature, tranquility, and views.

10 June 2010

Clueless in the NYTBR

Find myself mildly annoyed by Jay McInerney's Sunday review of Ann Beattie's latest novel, Walks with Men.  The book, which I have not read yet, is apparently a coming-of-age-and-beyond story of a young woman who attaches herself to an older, prosperous man who promises to teach her things about men (secret things, things she needs to know), if only she promises not to attribute to him what she has learned. She leaves him when she learns he is married, and then marries him herself. 

My annoyance is that McInerney faults the book for insufficiently explaining why an intelligent, attractive young woman would stay with such a man:
...the maddening thing is that the narrator begins to see through her Henry Higgins early on, and is certainly wised-up to him as her narrating older self, and yet still allows herself to be Svengalied.

Could he be more clueless? You'd have to look long and hard for a Galatea who does not see through her Pygmalion.

They should have had a woman write the review.

01 June 2010

Taming of the Shrew @ Chicago Shakespeare Theater

I had some trepidation about this show, since learning that new material for a "frame" had been written by playwright Neil LaBute.  While I have not seen his plays, I know them by reputation--they're famous for their nastiness, particularly in terms of relations between the sexes.

But in fact the frame story works beautifully: a contemporary company putting on The Taming of the Shrew features a female star who is bridling against the personal and artistic control of the director, who is also her lover. This conflict provides a terrific counterpoint to Shakespeare's drama of control (or taming); the conclusion is both startling and perfect.

It is wonderful when you go to see a play you think you know very well (after all, the story of the shrew transformed by forceful love into obedient beauty is told and retold throughout our culture) and wind up enthralled, surprised, and thrilled by new discoveries.  The performances were all terrific--and it was great to recognize some of the actors from other wonderful productions we had seen--but they did not draw attention to themselves so much as to the material. 

We walked out pondering, and we continue to ponder.

20 May 2010

Lucky Day

Early this morning, back at the Bill Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary, I watched as a flock of Cedar Waxwings landed in the treetops. Their stay around here is brief as they migrate through (I happened to catch them last spring, too, but at a different spot, the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool, one of my favorite places), so I felt very fortunate to see them this year. It was otherwise kind of quiet, except for one bird's persistent singing: a Yellow Warbler. Which very kindly came out into the open and allowed me to watch its little throat vibrate as it sang.

In the morning I also discovered the hiding place of a little raccoon--in a hole about halfway up the trunk of a tree along the path--I can't imagine how it caught my eye, but it did. But the evening was even better. Because I saw something strange in the pond. A beaver? Gone too quickly. Couldn't tell. Later I saw a raccoon swimming. Must've been a raccoon. But then again... Beaver! Two beavers! Eating leaves, swimming in the pond.

And meanwhile the catbirds singing like crazy.

19 May 2010

Lucky Morning

Today I was reminded of how useful it is to birdwatch with others--especially when the others know more than you.  I'm usually on my own, and my knowledge is limited.  I'm never without a field guide--the convenient iBird app is installed on my iPhone--but first-time bird identification is hard, even if you have great pictures to look at.  Nothing is better than a reliable companion who can say, "Yup, that's a Black and White Warbler" or "Nope, we don't get Blue Grosbeaks here; that's an Indigo Bunting."

Stopping by the Bill Jarvis Bird Sanctuary today, I encountered just such a person, and with her assistance spotted my first Blackburnian Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, and Connecticut Warbler, learned to identify a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher with more confidence, and hope to remember the distinctive call of the Great Crested Flycatcher. Together, we also spotted Palm Warblers, Magnolia Warblers, a Wilson's Warbler, and a Yellow-Rumped--I doubt I would ever have seen so many birds on my own.

Truly, a lucky morning and a lovely start to the day.

18 May 2010

The Secret Lives of Dentists and We Don't Live Here Anymore

Without realizing it, I had these two movies right next to each other in our Netflix queue, so we watched one bad-marriage movie after another. The Secret Lives of Dentists is based on Jane Smiley's "The Age of Grief," which I read many years ago. We Don't Live Here Anymore is based on Andre Dubus' novella of the same name as well as his "Adultery," in the same volume. I remember trying to read "We Don't Live Here Anymore" once; found it too depressing.

Both movies are well written, and feature great performers and dialogue. While they deal with similar material, they are very different. In "The Secret Lives..." we get the impact of a wife's infidelity from the husband's point of view. His discovery of her affair renders him literally beside himself--he generates an invisible sidekick (based on a troublesome patient) who commiserates over his predicament and challenges him to confront his wife and move on. We get so deep into the husband's head that we even witness his fantasies about his wife's adultery (he doesn't know who she's seeing, so he imagines her with everyone they know, both individually and in combination).

In "We Don't Live..." we see two unhappy couples destroy their marriages. It's an upsetting movie to watch, but ultimately far more satisfying than "The Secret Lives..." because the action happens before us. We don't have to be told about the impact.

"The Secret Lives..." takes place in a space removed from the action--it's all aftermath. When it was over, I wondered, "Who could imagine this was a good idea?" The other movie made me want to try again to read Dubus' novellas.


This is a well-made film about unlikable people. A blind man with trust issues (Hugo Weaving), Martin, takes photographs so he can test the truthfulness of those who describe his surroundings to him. Constantly on guard against being deceived, he rejects the affections of the woman (Genevieve Picot), Celia, who cleans his house and does his errands but keeps employing her while claiming to detest her. Much of the film is taken up by their backbiting repartee.

After a chance encounter, he makes friends with a young dishwasher (Russell Crowe, almost unbearably young here), Andy, and decides to trust him.


The plot is rather predictable from here: the heavily defended Martin lets down his guard with Andy, Andy betrays him, and Martin learns that being betrayed is part--not all--of friendship. Still, the story is compellingly told, with strong performances and snappy dialogue. The weakest aspect of the movie is that the characters are on the edge of being so dislikable that we don't care what happens to them.

Mostly, they stay on the correct side of that edge.

Artsy DC

The first time I went to Washington DC, at 13, I loved it. I had never seen a city so white (coming from New York in the 1970s), and I found the new Metro amazingly futuristic--so quiet! And the stations reminded me of scenes from Star Wars.

The second time I visited Washington, as a slightly older teen, I found it sterile. I couldn't fathom what I'd liked about it before.

I've been back a handful of times in recent years and with each visit I find more to enjoy. On this last trip I "discovered" the National Gallery. The East Building contains a really stunning collection of modern and contemporary art. The West Building has some wonderful Impressionist works. Also visited The Phillips Collection for the first time, which is a lovely small museum, focused on American modern art--a substantial exhibit of Georgia O'Keefe abstract paintings was ongoing. Liked it so much, I joined.

I felt like I was encountering new (to me) masterpieces everywhere I went. I'd never thought of Washington as a mecca for art--museums, yes, but the Smithsonian tends to come to mind more than the art galleries. Clearly my impression was incorrect. Look forward to returning and exploring further.

Iron Man 2

Who would've pegged Robert Downey, Jr., as an action hero? Perhaps part of the appeal of Iron Man is Downey's unlikeliness. We never get tired of this trope: the moral fuckup on the outside is actually a hero on the inside (see also The Scarlet Pimpernel). We love to think we are capable of more than we seem to be.

In Iron Man 2, the unlikeliness persists and even intensifies as Downey's/Tony Stark's self-destructive tendencies are boosted by his knowledge that the power source that keeps him alive is fatally poisonous. However, representatives of a mysterious group appear, providing Stark with hope that an alternative power source can be found, in the process hinting to Stark that his father was also perhaps more than he seemed.

While this movie is terrifically silly, it is also a great deal of fun. Scarlett Johansson joins the cast as an action hero in her own right, as does Samuel L. Jackson. Also new to the ensemble is Don Cheadle as Rhodey, which I found kind of shocking. As if audiences wouldn't notice that Terrence Howard was Rhodey in the first installment. You'd think they would have invented a brother or something...

Worth seeing if you enjoy comic book movies, especially if you are a Robert Downey, Jr., fan.

If not, not.

17 May 2010

Girls vs. Boys by the House Theatre

This is an exuberant show about adolescent misery. A talented cast sings and dances their way through set pieces on first love, first sex, abandonment, the yearning for deep connection, and the desire to be grown, individual, and unique while also being "cool," or admired.

The House Theatre
does its usual splendid job creating a dynamic production. I was disturbed at first by the glittery guns carried by all the cast members until I realized (it took me a long time--call me slow) that they were metaphorical--emotionally, teenagers walk around like loaded guns.

It's a great show for middle and high school kids. I was somewhat less entertained. In the past few years I've found myself not so interested in adolescent drama--even West Side Story, one of my favorite musicals. I lose patience with the histrionics, no matter well expressed.

19 April 2010

Cabaret, by the Hypocrites

I never before saw Cabaret on stage, though I have seen Bob Fosse's movie multiple times, and read Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories with appreciation several years ago. So--knowing the movie was different from the stage production, and knowing that The Hypocrites were likely to make their own changes, I really didn't know what to expect from this show, which we went to see before any reviews had come out.

It's pretty thrilling With just a couple of spare settings, and some fabulous songs and terrific performances, The Hypocrites tell a raunchy, romantic, scary, and finally chilling story of 1931 Berliners (and Anglophone expatriates) trying to live round lives that don't fit in the square holes allotted by the rise of fascism. The show is more overtly political than I expected--my recollection is that the movie is pretty in-your-face about sex, but more indirect about politics.

The Hypocrites are in-your-face about both; being in-your-face is their signature. A troupe of outstanding performers delivers the goods: Jesse Fisher as the Emcee is especially noteworthy, and Lindsay Leopold as Sally Bowles has some really splendid moments. Jim Heatherly as Schultz and Kate Harris as Frau Schneider are also standouts in their romantic subplot, and there is not a bad performance in the ensemble. The band which sits just behind the action throughout the show, is also exceptional, creating and sustaining the feeling of being at a seedy cabaret for two and a half hours.

Can't recommend this too highly, but don't take your kids or your parents. It's not appropriate for children, and you'd be embarrassed sitting next to your parents during a lot of those dance numbers: the Kit Kat girls and boys nearly fall out of their clothes as they gyrate.

18 March 2010

Social Media at Work

On Facebook, I recently became a fan of Millennium Park. This means that park news and events appear on my Facebook page; I don't need to remind myself to visit the Millennium Park site.

Yesterday, this meant that when I checked Facebook after my doctor's appointment, I learned that the crocuses have started to bloom in the Lurie Garden. What better place, then, to sit and eat my lunch?

And so I did, charmed by the sprouting crocuses (croci, if you prefer). I took a snapshot of one of them, and posted it to my Facebook profile, closing the social media circle in one sense and opening it further in another.

19 February 2010

Chicago French Market

Victor and I used to live in a building directly across the street from the new Chicago French Market, so we have been waiting for it for a long time (we lived there more than five years ago, and even then there were signs promising, "Metra Market Coming Soon").

Chicago has long lacked a year-round multi-vendor market, and placing one adjacent to a commuter rail station (Ogilvie Transportation Center) seems like a smart idea. A block from the Clinton Green Line stop, it is also an easy destination for non-commuters (like myself) seeking better grocery options downtown (as well as a fun place for lunch).

The market includes at least three different produce vendors, one of them organic. Prices vary widely. An outpost of Devon Avenue's City Fresh Market seems to consistently boast the most reasonable prices, and also offers dairy products, meat (including Tallgrass Beef), and very nice looking fish and seafood. There are a couple of outlets for fresh bread (including Pastoral, which sells loaves baked by the award-winning Bennison's Bakery in Evanston), and several for sweet baked goods (Vanille Patisserie, Delightful Pastries), not to mention caramel corn, honey-roasted nuts, and artisan chocolates. A wide variety of cheeses are available from Pastoral and from a Wisconsin vendor. Also, a purveyor of smoked and cured meats, Fumare, carries a terrific inventory. (I am right now addicted to the Gypsy Bacon.)

But the market is not just about groceries to take home; you can also eat there. A sharp-looking Lavazza cafe serves up decent cappuccino and a varied assortment of stands offers Mexican, Indian-fusion, Korean, vegan-raw, Vietnamese, and other cuisines.

According to Time Out, more vendors are coming soon.

I visited the market for the first time on Tuesday and went back yesterday. Of course it is no Pike Place. It is not even as big as the North Market in Columbus. OH. Still, it is a fun, accessible grocery and lunch alternative in a neighborhood that is not exactly abounding with interesting options. I can easily see myself adding this venue to my grocery rotation; in fact, you could say I have already done so: I returned there yesterday to get some meat for tonight's dinner.

17 February 2010

No Room for Kale or Chard at Jewel

For the past year or more I have been doing most of my produce shopping at small neighborhood markets rather than the corporate supermarkets. I bus out to neighborhoods like Andersonville and Rogers Park. But the other day, Victor and I were downtown and I really needed some greens for our next soup. I was thinking kale, or chard. There aren't a lot of grocery options downtown--Fox & Obel is great, but it was a little out of our way; Trader Joe's didn't have what I wanted; and then there's the Jewel at Grand & State.

Located in a busy, touristy, kind of ritzy neighborhood, this Jewel might be the nicest one in the city--clean, atmospheric. But despite its size (compared to the neighborhood markets where I usually shop), Victor and I couldn't find what I wanted in the produce section. Finally we tracked down an employee. He pointed at the torn collard greens packaged in plastic bags and said, "We don't carry chard."

Our mouths must have dropped open, because he then added, defensively, "They might carry it at some of our larger stores."

"There are larger stores than this?"

(Because you see, it had been a long time since we were in a Jewel.)

"This is the smallest Jewel in the city."

Oh. We thanked the young man, looked around, and realized every leafy green vegetable was packaged in a plastic bag or container. No loose heads of lettuce, no loose spinach, and no substantial greens at all, except the collards in the bag.

Since Consumer Reports recently published results of its study of cleanliness of bagged salad (conclusion--even if it says triple-washed, wash it anyhow), I haven't been keen on buying stuff in bags, but I didn't have much choice, so I picked up a bag of spinach.

And washed it before I put it in the soup.

Mushroom Choice As a Moral Issue

At the Green City Market, a mushroom vendor responded to a query about the difference between cultivated white mushrooms and creminis:

"It's like white bread and wheat bread. I hope you eat wheat bread, not white bread..."