Review: Chicago

Yes, Chicago:  The Windy City, Chi-town, the City of the Big Shoulders.  I returned from there Monday and, let me tell you, it was an amazing trip!

It was my first time to Chicago and it all came about because I started a bucket list a couple years ago.  Most of the items are travel and learning items but this year I decided it was time to cross some of these things off.  I am turning forty in a few short months and I wanted to at least cross a couple items off.  It’s always been my dream to go to Wrigley Field and to Soldier Field (I am a die hard Cubs and Bears fan) and since they are on my bucket list, it was going to happen.

I asked my dad to go with me at first and he was excited.  Then, a while later, I decided to ask my mom as well.  I love my parents and I want to make memories with them.  Mom was hesitant but chose to go and I’m glad she did.

Last Thursday we made the trek to Denver to board our plane for a short two hour flight to Chicago.  I was excited to say the least.  And then the Midwest weather got in the way and we circled Chicago for a while…then got diverted to Kansas City.  After waiting on the plane for almost three hours we finally got back into the air and landed in Chicago only to wait another two and a half hours to de-plane.  I wanted to kiss the ground in Chicago!

I am a member of the Grand Junction Lions Club and our first stop on Friday was to Lions Club International for a tour.  We went straight from there, via our trusty Uber driver, to Wrigley Field.  We had the fortune to take Michigan Avenue to the ballpark and got our first peak of Lake Michigan.

When we got to Wrigley, I was ecstatic!  I actually skipped once inside.  My dream was coming true!  I had written Wrigley Field ahead of time regarding gluten free eats and they had a diner that had buns for hamburgers and hot dogs, although this day they were out of hamburger buns.  Not to worry, I wanted a ballpark hotdog!  Since the fries are not in a dedicated fryer they were careful to give us kettle chips instead.  Pair that with a hard cider and I was in heaven!

In front of Wrigley Field

After the game we decided to walk a mile to Chicago’s Pizza.  I had read reviews of this place online and they were great.  Their gluten free pizza had high reviews so we decided to give them a try.  The atmosphere was cozy and warm and we were warmly greeted.  We told the server that we were gluten free and he proceeded to tell us about the gluten free offerings.  We decided to have cheesy garlic bread and then ordered a stuffed pizza.  They brought out a little appetizer breadsticks and then the fun began.  The cheesy garlic bread was crispy with a nice layer of cheese and a hint of garlic.  Dip it in the tomato sauce and it was amazing.  Then the pizza.  Let me tell you, if you EVER get to Chicago, you have to stop here.  The pizza was about four or five inches thick and the cheese strung out forever!  It was the best tasting pizza I’ve ever had.  By the way, they will ship pizzas nationwide and it’s going to be my little treat from time to time!  Pictures don’t do the pizza justice but you can see the goodness!

Chicago's Pizza Breadsticks Chicago's Pizza Chicago's Pizza Cheese Garlic Bread Gluten Free Pizza First slice! Gooey, yummy pizza

The next day we decided to venture to the Navy Pier.  It’s a beautiful area with shops and restaurants as well as an amusement park.  They give boat tours and dinner/lunch tours as well.  We started the day at Harry Caray‘s and weren’t disappointed.  Dad had the burger with a gluten free bun and said it was amazing.  Mom and I had the fish tacos and they were the best I ever had.  The tilapia was seasoned just right, the sauce added a little kick and the salsas finished it off.  We wandered the pier, having a mid afternoon cocktail after our boat tour, and then settled on Bubba Gump‘s for dad’s birthday dinner.  The server was helpful and I decided on the shrimp and veggie skewers with jasmine rice and mom and dad had the Accidental Fish & Shrimp Broiled Mahi Mahi over a bed of Jasmine Rice.  My meal was so refreshing and done just right and mom and dad said that their meal was great as well.

Harry Carey's Burger Fish Tacos Navy Pier Shrimp and Veggie Skewers Accidental Fish and Shrimp

The last Chicago item on my bucket list was to see the Chicago Bears play at Soldier Field.  While the Bears didn’t have the stadium food that Wrigley had, it still had a few options.  The brats were gluten free (no buns) as were the tortilla chips and the nacho cheese.  They also have popcorn and Redbridge Beer as well as hard ciders.  We had enough to eat and got to see the Bears get stomped but it was well worth going.  That night we ate in the hotel and they were so good about knowing what was gluten free and had it marked on the menu.  My chicken was done just perfect and the potato-bacon hash was amazing!

At the Bears GameChicken and Potato Bacon Hash

The plane ride home was without incident which I was thankful for!

I’ve read that if you are a foodie that Chicago is a place to visit and I wasn’t disappointed.  Their gluten free foods were delish and I do plan on going back.  In the meantime, I will have my pizza delivered from Chicago!


Review: Ace’s Pumpkin Cider

I have a confession:  I am not a big pumpkin eater.  My best friend, Shawna, loves this time of year because EVERYTHING is pumpkin.  EVERYTHING.  It’s crazy what they put pumpkin in.  I am American though so around Thanksgiving I do have a piece of pumpkin pie, because I probably should.

Anyway, I went to a liquor store to buy a bottle of wine and found myself in the hard cider section.  They really are next to each other so it wasn’t much of a stretch.  I was a little surprised at the variety of hard ciders available.  Many different types of apple hard cider, a berry cider, ciders with hops, and on and on.  The one that caught my eye was the pumpkin cider.

I’ve never tried Ace’s Premium Craft Ciders although I’ve heard it’s good.  The packaging was clearly marked “Gluten Free” and is also certified Gluten Free.  Since I had looked at a few hard ciders that weren’t marked, this made my day.  I decided to take a chance to buy the pumpkin hard cider.  I told Shawna that she would have to try it with me because, in my mind, if I didn’t like it I knew she probably would.

I finally had my chance to try it.  I was expecting a super pumpkin-y taste but was very pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t.  It has a good cider base but you could taste the hint of pumpkin pie:  nutmeg, cinnamon, etc.  Not overwhelming at all, very refreshing.  It was also very smooth and I could see sitting outside on a fall day next to a fire and having one of these to welcome the fall chill in.

I have to say that I will be buying more of this this fall since it is a seasonal item.  Thank, Ace, it’s a winner!

Pumpkin Cider

Never forget

I haven’t forgotten, I just didn’t know what to write quite yet.  It’s a day that we can’t get out of our heads and even when 9/11 appears in one of it’s many forms, we think back to that day.

When asked where you were on 9/11/01, every one of you in the US can remember.  So many stories, so many feelings.  Each one of them valid, each one of them real.

Here is my story:  on 9/10 my brother had left with two of his friends to move to Seattle from Sioux Falls, SD.  My brother and I had lived there for years and it was hard to say good bye to him (especially after seeing the rattle trap van they bought for $500 for a cross country trek…but I digress).  That was before we had cell phones attached to us 24/7.  There really was no way to know where he was at any point unless he called.

The next day I had the day off from the pawn shop I worked at and had an interview scheduled with one of the local radio stations.  I got up, turned the TV on and, as I watched, I saw a plane hit a building.  My initial thought was “I wonder what movie this is for” only to realize a few seconds later that it wasn’t a movie, it was real life.  I was as stunned as the morning crew at Good Morning America, only they were on TV and I wasn’t.

I don’t think I’ve ever picked up a phone so quickly in my life.  I called my mom.  That’s who you want when everything is going wrong in the world and this was exactly that instance.  She and I sat on the phone for a while, watching another plane hit the second building and then the footage from the Pentagon.  We had no idea what was going on, no idea where my brother was and no idea if they would attack again.  It was a scary, scary feeling.

I got ready for my interview, went to the pawn shop and hung out with the guys there, they were the family I needed at that time.  At my interview, all of us had problems concentrating.  TVs were on everywhere and, honestly, who could think about a job at this time?  After my interview I went back to the pawn shop for a couple hours and then home.  Only there the only thing on TV was the terrorist attack and we kept reliving it.

The skies became silent as airports were shut down, we were told to stay away from malls and places where large groups congregate.  Fear was in the air.  Fear and anger.  How dare they?  Why did they?  Who are they?

Slowly we had answers but it wasn’t the comfort that people wanted to have.  It’s still not comforting as we are threatened every day, although it’s not spoken.

The only good thing, if something good can be taken from something like 9/11, was that it brought our country together.  Men and women, young and old, skin of every color, they all came together to comfort, to offer hope, to bring strength to each other and to our nation.  Something that has fallen by the wayside, something we’ve forgotten.

Let’s remember those who died heroically, those that died tragically and those that sacrificed that day and many days after.  Let’s never forget, always remember.


Drink up!

A few weeks ago I got a text from my brother, who is a graphic designer primarily for breweries and distilleries.  He works with a company that has developed an amazing hard cider and I figured that they were up to another project.  His question to me was about how large to put “naturally gluten free” on the label and placement of that statement.  I told him that if someone is gluten free, they will look for that statement or the “GF” logo on any product.

That brings me to my most recent trip to the liquor store.  I was putting together a “at home date night” kit for a co worker of mine that got married over the weekend and was looking for a nice bottle of wine.  In the process, I wandered to the cider area of the store.  Now, this is a store that I don’t frequent often but it was handy so…I wanted to do some looking.  Their cider selection was CRAZY.  Pumpkin cider, blueberry cider and so many more.  Can you say heaven?  But I got to looking and some of the bottles weren’t labeled gluten free.  Really?  Cider should be, technically, gluten free.  I’m not one to take chances.  It surprised me that a graphic designer didn’t have the forethought to say “hey guys, is this cider gluten free and, if so, we need to label it”.  I don’t buy something that I can’t read the ingredient or doesn’t say plainly “gluten free”.  The funny thing is that two of the bottles I chose back to back weren’t labeled.  (I turned to the single bottles so I could try a couple new ones).  And too bad…they sounded delish!

I turned around and lo and behold, I saw this:


Now, THAT’S the way to label a product!

I will never say that a product HAS to be labeled, that is up to the company.  But it makes it easier for those of us that are gluten free to know what is safe.  Plus, if you do have a product that is gluten free, I am more apt to buy it!

By the way, I’m not a huge pumpkin person but my friend Shawna is so when I saw this, I thought “Well, it’s fall and something different so I’ll try it”.  I will let you know what I think!

Ace Pumpkin Cider

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