That Time I Volunteered At An Art Gallery

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hello all, it's Sunday. Or Universal Homework Day as I like to call it. Although I started my homework earlier this weekend, we all know how that goes. You stop halfway through because you tell yourself having the whole weekend ahead of you to do it. And then Sunday night comes...

I've spent a lot of time being philanthropic lately, mostly due to my sorority. But my favorite experience yet was at an art and decoration store downtown, Primitive Gallery, that was hosting an event called "Place the Hope" for Children's Place International.
I, along with Isabel, ended up selling art that Haitian children had created with acrylics and tiny canvases. Knowing that this was the first time many of the children had held a paintbrush was astonishing. The art pieces went quickly, to donors and high society people who readily handed over their credit cards and selected their art.

Besides being wow-ed by the cause, I was definitely astounded by these people's generosity, or at least how easy it was for them to justify buying one or more of these artworks. Watching them walk past in their classy outfits with designer handbags and a drink in hand, it made me realize how much I'd like to be among them someday. I mean, I guess I've gone to galas and events with my parents where they've donated to charities without thinking twice, but being on the side that was collecting and facilitating, not merely watching my father pull out his checkbook, was eye-opening. Someday I'll be at that gala, pondering art pieces and buying them from wide-eyed college volunteers.

For now, I hope to do more work with Children's Place and make an impact despite my thinning college budget. 

XOXO

Foodie Review (double): John's Place and Chez Moi

Saturday, October 6, 2012

This past week, my roommate celebrated nineteen years. Although we are twins in many ways, when it comes to birthdays, we couldn't be more of opposites. I'm a sucker for a quiet, relaxing day and a good dinner with just a couple friends. Libby, on the other hand, likes to plan out her whole birthday week full of activities. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating, but she definitely likes to have plans for her day. Here's the breakdown of our October 4th:

Noon: Lunch at John's Place on Webster and Racine. We had hummus, which was fairly standard, to start. Then I got a tofu sandwich that had been grilled to perfection, and she got the fish tacos. The restaurant was quaint and airy, and the service was fairly quick - although that could have been due to the lack of people in the place. We left perfectly full and with leftovers.
Em's Rating: 6.5 
The downside? For the price, the food was not stellar, but I will definitely stop in again for an occasional brunch or dinner with my friends. 

4PM: After an afternoon of homework, all the girls rounded up for a workout session, called Werq, at the Ray. It was fantastic exercise and really fun, especially because we were together! We were laughing about our horrid dance skills (and about how I can't do any dance move without holding my back upright) the whole time. Highly recommended.
6PM: When everyone was done showering, we met up with the guys (even Libby's boyfriend made a trip down from Wisconsin!) and headed over to Chez Moi, a french restaurant. My goodness were we blown away when we arrived! First off, we were graciously greeted and sat at a table in this cozy, dark-wooded atmosphere lit by glimmering chandeliers. Libby received her own menu that was inscribed with a "Happy Birthday!" and the signature of Chef Dominique on the back! The servers (one of them was actually French, hailing from Bretagne) then brought out complimentary appetizers: a white bean hummus dip, garlic purée with french fries, radishes and butter, and of course, bread. All of our food was delicious, and, as we were eight, there was a lot of variety on our table. Between trout, steak, and scallops, we decided we couldn't have picked a better restaurant for the evening.
 Em's Rating: 10

Now for the best part, during dinner, Libby opened up all of our presents. Yours truly was last of course, and I was shaking from nerves - although I don't really know why - up until the moment she opened the bag I'd so precariously put together. As soon as she saw the pattern of her lovely Diane Von Furstenberg dress, she gasped "no way!" and the freak out began. I'm so very glad she liked it, and that she hadn't suspected me of getting it for her. Her reaction was probably one of the best I've ever witnessed in all my gift-giving days...and that's saying something. I guess I have my mother to thank, though. She is one of the best people I know at remembering the little things, which always makes for the best gifts. If the apple never falls far from the tree, mother is the very lowest branch and I'm the pink lady!

XOXO

P.s. Be sure to check out my Yelp profile!

Foodie Review: Portillo's

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

I wouldn't be a Chicago foodie if I hadn't already tasted the wonder that is Portillo's. This place, introduced to me by one of my Belden girls who is practically a native to the city, is dangerous for my daily calorie count, but also sinfully delicious.

I walked into the location off of Ontario St. in downtown and immediately felt like I was in an old-school diner. While the space is more airy, the retro decor and music threw me back in time. I found the order-at-the-counter style to be charming, although where to order what was a bit confusing at first. I waited a few minutes and my Portillo's chopped salad appeared on a plate adorned with crinkle-cut french fries. Then I headed over to the opposite corner of the room to pick up the famous Chocolate Cake Shake. The salad was amazing, with an original dressing spicing up traditional ingredients. The fries were standard, but somehow they seemed to taste a little better under the dim lighting and surrounding gingham-cloth-covered tables. Finally, it came time to consume my weight in the famous Portillo's dessert. It was everything I could have imagined a chocolate cake in liquid form to be. It's as if they stuffed a scrumptious piece of spongy, chocolate cake into a blender with milk and hit go.

I would say I'm coming back here, but for my own health (and avoidance of the Freshman 15) I will try my best to reserve this place for emergencies only.

Em's rating: 9
The downside? The confusing ordering system was more tough than I thought and I felt like I was jumping through hoops just to get my food at one point.

Foodie Review: Joy Yee Noodles (Shabu Shabu)

Monday, October 1, 2012

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, my roommate and I decided to take a chance and ride the L down to Chinatown for lunch. The commute was nice, seeing as the stop was just on the red line (what a convenient line!) and you could see China Place from the station.

We wandered around the giant asian-inspired area for a bit before settling in Joy Yee Noodles (Shabu Shabu) for some sushi. Immediately upon entering, we noticed there was a river-like fish tank...under the floor! After ahh-ing over this for a moment, we were quickly seated in a booth in the middle of all the action. We were too scared to get the shabu, as neither of us knew how to eat it, and instead got a couple different sushi rolls (sweet potato, Joy Yee roll, california) to be eaten family-style. We were absolutely blown away by the quality of the sushi! It was the best I've had since my favorite authentic Japanese restaurant in Grand Rapids. The staff was very friendly and prompt, but I think that must be a part of Asian culture.

With stuffed stomachs and a little-less-stuffed wallets, we left the restaurant raving and ready to come back!

Em's rating: 7.5
The downside? If you don't know what you're ordering, there isn't much help for you.