Friday, September 08, 2006

Tables with a view: Chicago

Dining can be about much more than food. I have always sought restaurants that have great views, devouring sights and nibbling lunch. Over the years I’ve developed a list of personal favorites like the Restaurant de la terrasse at the Samaritaine department store in Paris; George’s at the Cove in La Jolla; or the legendary Windows on the World, tragically destroyed on September 11, 2001.

Chicago, one of my favorite cities, offers a glittering cityscape at night and architectural splendors by day. Here’s my pick for how to spend one day eating and taking in the view.

Breakfast: McDonald’s at Chicago Place
This pick may come as a surprise, but it is undoubtedly the best view per dollar spent in Chicago. Chicago Place is a vertical shopping mall located at 700 N. Michigan Avenue. Head to the tenth floor and find the food court. It doesn’t look like much – look for the large dining room hidden past the counter. Floor to ceiling windows offer sweeping views down Michigan Avenue towards Tribune Tower and the bridge – the people eating in the food court don’t even know this view exists. McMuffin eating at its best.

Lunch: The Signature Room at the 95th
The highest restaurant in the country, on the 95th and 96th floors of the John Hancock Center. The food is quite good, although some critics grouse that it doesn’t live up to the prices. While that may be true at dinner time, lunch is a bargain, with most entrees priced $15 or less. The service is polished and the views are jaw-dropping. If you want to see the view by night, try their bar on the 96th floor. It’s a much more civilized way to take in the view than the public observation deck two floors below. For about the same price Joe Tourist pays for the observation deck, you can enjoy a signature martini in the swank surroundings.

Dinner: Everest
Chef Jean Joho has created one of the world’s best restaurants in a setting with incredible views. Located on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange Building you can enjoy a seasonal menu of local ingredients filtered through the sensibility of the chef’s Alsatian roots. It isn’t cheap, but you get what you pay for – it’s worth every penny. Savor the Roasted Maine Lobster in Alsace Gewurztraminer Butter and Ginger as you end the day here, high above the sparkling lights and remember perhaps, your breakfast McMuffin.

Photo Credit: Kevin P. Martin

Thursday, September 07, 2006

World Food in Your Mailbox: Austria

It's the time of year where I check up on what's new in Germany, Switzerland and Austria for winter travelers. In addition to skiers, I always have a few folks who want to take in some Christmas markets and Alpine charm. It's nice to warm up with warm drinks and pastries after taking in the postcard-perfect winter scenes.

While looking at some menus, I was pleased to discover that the most famous maker of Linzertorte now delivers their famous cakes all over the world from their bakery in Linz. Konditorei Jindrak is the most famous maker of the centuries-old recipe of almonds and raspberry jam. I might order one for Thanksgiving.

Photo Credit: Austrian Tourist Office

Monday, September 04, 2006

Steve Irwin 1962 - 2006

I was saddened to hear of the death of Steve “The Crocodile Hunter” Irwin earlier today. He died doing something he loves and I’ll bet he wouldn’t have changed how he lived his life, even if he knew how it would end up.

Press reports are focusing on his contributions as an environmentalist; I want to point out that his contributions to Australia’s tourism are incalculable. Although I never visited his Australia Zoo near Brisbane, I always recommended it to my clients who traveled to the area. They always had a wonderful time and brought back great pictures and video that they shared with me. Those that actually got to meet Steve usually called it the highlight of their trip.

Although he won’t be there in the future, I’m sure his legend will grow and continue to inspire people to come to Australia and learn about its wildlife that he loved so much.

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