El Camino is “the road” not the vehicle. The old Plymouth Voyager featured on the cover of The Black Key’s newest album, similar to their first touring digs, is a fitting chariot to epitomize the band’s journey from basement-blues misfits to Grammy winners. The sound on the Akron duo’s (now Nashvillle) seventh studio album is significantly more polished, yet The Black Keys still grind out the voice of the Rust Belt like a rubber factory production line.
Read the rest of my review and get MP3s at Indieball.com.
This year’s temperate weather has made it tougher than usual to get into the holiday spirit, but a stroll in the Lincoln Park Zoo should aid your festive fulfillment. ZooLights, a dazzling display of lights throughout the zoo grounds runs through January 1, 2012.
Each winter between Thanksgiving and New Years’, Chicagoans enjoy a stunning seasonal series at the zoo which, as always, is absolutely free! The zoo’s extended hours run until 9pm nightly. If the glow of 2 million beautiful bulbs isn’t enough, ZooLights also includes live ice carvings, holiday train and carousel rides, crafts, and giant snow globes. While many of the zoo’s inhabitants are not on display, others, including lions and reptiles, can be seen in the indoor animal houses. An hour’s tour of the zoo will put you in a winter wonder state-of-mind, especially when paired with the spiced wine.
In another instance of personal Chicago winter firsts, my ZooLights highlights include the trippy flashing light tunne, and the electric light orchestra of seasonal splendor in sequence with the timeless caroling of Mariah in a Christmas union that evoked pure delight from my erstwhile holiday blasé. So go and soak up ZooLights’ Technicolor enchantment; when the winter blahs set in it will keep you feeling bright.
Lincoln Park Zoo
2200 N. Cannon Drive
Chicago, IL 60614
Merry Christmas from Rockefeller Center! - New York, New York
At a loss for those last few holiday gift ideas? Encourage some Second City exploration with these quick gifts for seeing new sides of Chicago.
Explore by Bus
Chicago Architecture Foundation Tour: Highlights by Bus $42
Chicago winters are a tough time for exploration, but the Chicago Architecture Foundation offers tours by foot, boat, and bus. Check out the city’s diverse design from Hyde Park, to the Lakefront, to the Loop, and more in a curated bus outing covering 30 miles. The tour includes interior visits to Fran kLloyd Wright’s Robie House and Mies van der Rohe’s IIT campus, allowing you to avoid trekking through the elements while still exploring architecture up close in CAF’s most comprehensive tour.
Explore by Book
Chicago’s Classic Restaurants: Past, Present and Future $39.50
From lavish dining experiences to lunchrooms in the Loop, this coffee table book explores the history of “classic” restaurants in Chicago. Between old school standouts and the reflections of today’s culinary stars, including Charlie Trotter and Rick Bayless, this book serves an appetizing array of Chicago’s dining history.
Food Lovers’ Guide to Chicago: Best Local Specialties, Markets, Recipes, Restaurants & Events $15.95
Jennifer Olvera goes beyond the standard restaurant guide, highlighting Chicago’s neighborhood favorites in restaurants, bars, food festivals, recipes, and farmer’s market. Offering an accurate snapshot of establishments on every side of the city, it’s a great guide for Chicago visitors and citizens alike.
Explore by Band
Friends of the Empty Bottle Pass $149
Gift your favorite show-goer the gift that plays all year-long with the Friends of the Bottle pass from the Empty Bottle. The Ukranian Village venue is offering a year-long pass good for admission to any show in 2012 that is less than $10. In addition to free admission to most shows offered at the Bottle, members will have first access to purchase tickets for pricier shows as well as other perks.
Explore by Bar
History Pub Crawl: Chicago’s Greatest Dives $30
Give the gift of education and inebriation with a Chicago History Museum pub crawl. This tour explores the history of several of the city’s favorite dives, while you explore the goods in the glass at each stop.
Explore by Table
À la Card Chicago Restaurant Deck $32.75
This deck of cards will return more than your usual Texas Hold’em game. Each card contains a description of a delicious chef-driven Chicago restaurant and is redeemable for $10 off at that establishment any day of the year. It’s a great excuse to eat your way through the city all year!
Explore by Air
Chicago Aerial Tours $499.99
When no other view will do, explore the city by the stunning heights of a helicopter. See Chicago neighborhoods and landmarks from a unique vantage on this 30-minute tour, giving new meaning to the Chicago Skyway.
Posted in chicago, drinking, eating, exploring, holiday, listening, reading
Tagged books, chicago, christmas, concerts, drinking, eating, exploring, gift guide, holiday, listening, reading
Looking for somewhere warm to pop in during your last mad shopping dash? If you’re in the Chicago Loop at lunchtime consider a stroll through City Hall. Children’s choirs from all over the city will be performing every weekday between noon and 1 pm through December 21.
City Hall’s gorgeous hundred-year-old hallways are bathed in festive lighting as they reverberate with the carols of Chicago’s young voices.
Happy holidays from the Keller Regional Gifted Center!
Chicago City Hall
121 North La Salle Street
Chicago, IL 60602
Posted in chicago, exploring, holiday, impressions, listening, the loop
Tagged caroling, chicago, childrens choir, christmas, city hall, holiday, listening, the loop
The funny thing about New York City is that it’s not so much an American city. Its street scenes wouldn’t soak in seamlessly if dropped in Iowa or Florida, but NYC is recognizable to us all. We’ve seen New York’s images replayed in films, sitcoms, and dorm room posters, its representations feeling so characteristic and yet so familiar. I don’t whether such a thing as “Old New York” ever really existed or if tourists are searching for a version associated with Henry James, Patti Smith, or Sex and City circa the late 90’s (before Carrie owned a cell phone). Is New York An Affair to Remember or greater parts Taxi Driver? More likely it has something to do with Sinatra, but no matter which New York you’re craving Arturo’s serves a bona fide slice.
Step inside Arturo’s after a day of battle navigating and snapping pictures, and allow the enveloping live jazz to cure your urban ennui. Its three tight rooms are crowded and chaotic, with amiable staff ensuring the steady stream of Cabernet rivers over the energetic din and gesturing limbs. You’ll have to squeeze by the piano at the end of the long bar and make sure not to block the view of the upright bass shaking out jazz standards. Wood-paneled walls are lined salon-style with oil paintings done in varying levels of style and technique by none other than the owner. Unlike many NYC destinations, the atmosphere is comfortable, like you’re a guest in someone’s home. A giant bath tub roosting in the single bathroom confirms the homey feeling and oh I wonder the stories it could share.
Arturo’s offers a full menu of Italian fare but we dive straight for the pie, pointing to our chosen of many available toppings because the waiter isn’t quite able to hear us. The place is packed with gatherings of families and friends sharing the signature coal-oven pizza – we’ve made the right choice. First there’s an arugula salad that’s fresh and not overdressed, topped by a heavy hand with shaved parmesan. The large pizza is more than enough for three, perhaps a bit too coal-fired in this instance, but the outer ring’s singe compliments the slightest hint of sweetness in the well restrained sauce (I’m not a big marinara person). The flavors meld with fresh mozzarella, parmesan, tomato, and liberally applied basil. Deep dish has its place in my heart, but New York-style wins this round in the battle of the binge.
The outer ring’s singe compliments the slightest hint of sweetness in the well restrained sauce.
We didn’t seek out Arturo’s that Saturday, rather we wove in street lights’ gleam until we found something seeming accessible, affordable, and delicious. Months later reading David Byrne’s Bicycle Diaries, I happened upon a passage describing Arturo’s of all places in a section entitled The Old Crazy New York II. “Arturo’s is a neighborhood joint. There are a lot of regulars. It is not the sort of place that would ever attract the attention of serious foodies or get mentioned in the new trendy guides to New York City.”* Is it the music, the wine, the clutter of local clientele that give Arturo’s an air of Old New York? Are the comfortable characteristics lending a familiarity that I mistake for something I only think I know about what New York means? Any way you slice it, the stuff is good and I’m craving a return just as long as Arturo’s is serving jazz and coal-fired pie. Whichever version of NYC you’re after it’s sure to satisfy.
Arugula Salad: < $10
Large Pizza: $19
Bath in the House Tub: Management’s Discretion
106 West Houston Street
New York, NY 10012
*Byrne, David. Bicycle Diaries. [s.l.]: Penguin, 2010. 154.
Posted in drinking, eating, exploring, greenwich village, impressions, manhattan, new york city
Tagged arturos, drinking, eating, greenwich village, new york city, nyc, pizza