Just Like Home “The Great Escape”

the great escapeFood is an international language. No matter where you go, it speaks to people. It can bring a pleasant feeling or evoke a memory from our childhood.It can also be something that you have never experienced before. The bottom line is that food brings pleasure.

Between the glamour of downtown Chicago and O Hare, we were invited to try the food at a cute little place in Schiller Park called “The Great Escape.” I wondered why it was called that and I got my answer. The name of the owner of the restaurant is one Brian Great. It turns out that Brian’s mother and father had a restaurant in Chicago called the Drift Inn. Their specialty was the best baby back ribs and broasted chicken in the Chicago area. Brian and his family have happily carried on this tradition . We got a chance to try the food and absorb the homey atmosphere last week. It was a foodtastic experience . Sometimes the simplest food is truly the best.

Walking in the place, I was transported back to my childhood and the many mom and pop places that we went to in Ohio and on vacation. The decor was early American with wooden tables and chairs and a red , white and blue motif . It was a refreshing drink of water from the pretentious bistros of the Gold Coast. When we sat down at the table, a bountiful feast was laid out for us to enjoy.  Brian had to have us try what made them famous. I have to be honest, I have heard the term “broasted” chicken most of my life and finally learned what it was. It was nice to indulge in chicken that was not skinless and boneless. The skin was tasty, the cole slaw had a mayo base and that is the way it should be, the steak fries were hearty. Verdict, delish. The ribs came right off the bone and the spice was just right, not too tangy.  We tried the the bass as well, with it s special coating. I liked its taste, not too fishy and a big one …no bones. We got to try a few of the items not on the regular menu. One was a healthy treat called chicken and quinoa , Quinoa is a super food that is loaded with protein , but not with carbs. It had mushrooms and grilled chicken mixed with fresh vegetables. It had my approval for tasty and healthy at the same time.

Two items stuck out as what I would call my faves. One was the most magnificent chicken pot pie I have ever seen. You are talking to a baby boomer who grew up with frozen chicken pot pies. Believe me, this one is different . Start with a flaky crust that is fashioned to look like a true work of art. When you see it, you’ll think its too pretty to eat. Fill that shell with chunks of chicken, vegetables, and make it piping hot. We will have to venture back to the place when we are in the dead of the Chicago winters. The other I called a summer explosion of flavor .It was an amazing salad that consisted of fruit, grilled chicken, nuts, and provolone with a yogurt citrus dressing that made it pop.  The food at Great Escape is pure from the free range chicken to the farm to table vegetables. It is good old fashioned food at its best. And you are going to get a healthy helping for your money. That is good news.

The food isn’t the only attraction here at Great Escape. From the huge wine turbine to the famous who have dined here like the legendary Al Capone, you will be entertained and informed as well as fed well. The Great Escape is located at 9540 W Irving Park Road in Schiller Park. They are also available for banquets   and catering.


tangerine chicken salad

chciken pot pie

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Good Friends Make For A Pleasant Evening at Thalia Spice

thalia spice logo Both Jen and I always love to go to a restaurant for a tasting. It is so cool to actually get to see the owner or sous chef trotting out their best and chat with us. Well a couple weeks ago, we got an extra special treat. Vincent Tan, owner of Asian Fusion restaurant Thalia Spice invited us to be part of a party of his friends . Talk about a fun evening, Wine, food, and great new friends.

I asked Vincent about the term “Asian fusion” and he explained that his food consists of regional cuisines , that are integrated with different tastes and flavors. He also said that he likes to work with the local farmers to bring fresh meats and vegetables to his dishes. Thalia Spice opened about seven years ago when Malaysia born Tan came to Chicago and decided to provide the food community with a new option. With this option, I couldn’t wait to get started but first we had to wait for the other guests.

The one thing that we all had in common was that we were fashionable women who were making Chicago a better place . They included Alicja Burek, who I found out we had a mutual friend, the fabulous Benjamin Cotrell, Marian Hephzibah Lee, who is very active with her charities, and the third was a charming young lady named Sophie. Around the table we sat drinking and getting to know each other. Then our feast began.

 Our servers brought out a beautiful plate of Mango scallops. They were garnished with tropical flowers and the scallops were as tender as any meat. The mango was so sweet that I just kept nibbling at them as well. With this kind of a start, I really was excited about what was next. Grilled shrimp came next with a tangy sauce that I fell in love with . Vincent was so pleased when our next course showed up, Volcano soup. As I have said before, I am not a soup person. Tasting this one, made me want more and I wasn’t the only one. With a coconut broth mixed with spices and filled with shrimp, scallops and fresh mushrooms, it was truly a gourmet treat. Salads were next and we had two delicious ones, the first was a specialty salad with fresh papaya and a yummy peanut sauce for dressing. The second was called numtak and it had the sweetest meat I ever had and boy was the meat tender. Sushi was part of the evening as well, noted was a little number called kama sutra. (no I am not kidding) it was a charming mixture with calamari, mussel, shrimp with cheese on top. Delishh…. We couldn’t stop picking at Thalia’s ribs… they were that good and the meat fell right off the bone. The sauce is still in my mind and i will be back for those ribs again.

Desert is supposed to be a celebration and these goodies were the perfect ending of to our evening. Everything to a tasty mango pudding to something called death by chocolate, filled our plates as we added more deserts and wine and laughter. Women who started the evening as strangers were now friends.  Thanks so much Vincent for a great evening.

 Thalia Spice is located at 833 W Chicago Avenue. They are also open for brunch on the weekends as well. Did I happen to mention that the cocktails are scrumptious too. Try the lychee martini ..heavenly…

kuma sutra Here is the luscious kama sutra… talk about exotic and look at that presentation….

volcano soup Yummy is the one word to describe this soup… look at all the goodies in it..

thalia spice meal friendsIt’s fun having great food and meeting people…Omar Martinez happened to stop in at the end with a tray of his delectable desserts… more on that later…

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If We Picked the Emmy’s …Chitownstarconnections Views on the Noms

emmy imagesYesterday morning, the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences presented to the world their choices from the world of television. The ceremony takes place on August 25. Since we are both such tv fans, we thought that it would be fun to pretend if we ran the Emmy’s …

STANA KATIC at Intimate Cocktail and DinnerThis would be Jen’s nominee for best actress in a drama series… Stana Katic of “Castle” As Detective Kate Beckett, she has a roller coaster ride of a season. Starting with a short stint as FBI agent in DC that ended with watching her future husband ‘s car in flames on her wedding day, Stana has shown her chops in both comedy and drama. This is why Jen thinks that she should have been nominated.

season finale sceneKerry Washington was nominated for the second year in a row as fixer and Presidential girlfriend on “Scandal”  But Ms Washington couldn’t shine without the help of her ensemble cast … so these people should have gotten the nom as well…

BELLAMY YOUNGWinning the Critic’s Choice for Mellie, the ambitious and cold First Lady, Bellamy Young took her role to new heights with a back story that blew up the season. She softened a little , showed her vulnerability, and took a lover like her husband. She still remains a formidable adversary for Miss Pope and that is why she should have been nominated.

S3E14_0917Steppenwolf’s own Jeff Perry should have been nominated for his political monster, Cyrus Beane. Sometimes Cyrus has been known to do something diabolical for his own career, but he has also shown his heart as well. This was demonstrated this season in “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” when he had to tell the press about the death of his husband.

FitzFinally from the “Scandal” cast, if any one should have been nominated , it should have been this actor. Tony Goldwyn portrays weekly a man who is in conflict . He knows what is right, but keeps making bad choices. As the love interest of Olivia, he has done some of the best scenes with Kerry. Also their love scenes, are the hottest in network prime time.

sandra oh Another women that should have been nominated was Sandra Oh for her final season on “Grey’s Anatomy” as Cristina Yang. Her best scenes this season were Isaiah Washington and Ellen Pompeo. The sisterhood relationship was played out to the end as Cristina and Meredith danced it out one last time.

jackson huntJen thinks that veteran actor James Brolin should be nominated for his role Jackson Hunt, aka the missing father of Richard Castle. He lends an air of mystery and intrigue as the rogue spy who bedded Martha for one night and gave her a treasure, a son.

Scandal-Icarus-Lisa-Kudrow1jtFor best guest actress in a drama role, I think that Lisa Kudrow should have been nominated for her role on “Scandal” As Josie, she came into a well established cast and made  quite a splash. Would Josie have made it to November and the election? Probably not. But wasn’t it fun to see Olivia and the Gladiators back someone besides Fitz ? Even for just a little while.

Mayim Bialik and Jim Parsons usually are the ones from “The Big Bang Theory” who take the prize but others from the cast are just as deserving

the big bang theoryKayley Cuoco should be nominated for her cute and funny Penny. Her character has matured this year as she had to make some hard choices realizing that her dreams aren’t turning out the way she planned. Johnny  Galecki should be nominated for Leonard’s maturing as well. Kunal Nayar is absolutely charming as Raj . For dealing with his issues, Kumal should definitely be considered . It must be hard playing the only member of the cast that isn’t part of a couple.

ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" - Season 11If it was up to Jen this lady would have walked off with the gold a long time ago. Courteney Cox remained the lone person of the cast of “Friends” who never was nominated for an Emmy. For her current role as Jules, she should definitely get a nod for “Cougar Town.”

We at Chitownstarconnections congratulate all the nominees and wish them the best of luck on August 25….

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The Social Event of the Summer is Here

The-Kensington-Invite- The people of Tickled Pink and Bright Pink sure know how to throw a party. I saw that when I attended one last winter. Great food , great people like Val from WCL and one of my faves Candace Jordan, and lots of fun.  This time the fun is in the sun on the beautful Kensington Hotel roof. Sushi from Union (my fave) and cocktails. It is an evening to remember. So join me , Jodi Fyfe for a great time for a great cause. Plus there will be fashions by BeClothesMinded.

For info: RSVP to events@paramounteventschicago.com

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Lady Nena Has Learned Balance in Her Life

  1. me and lady nenaIt is always a special treat when we get to talk with one of  our dear friends . It is extra special when it is a woman who is making waves in the business world. Recently, we visited with the fabulous Lady Nena aka Lorena Nena Mondonedo Perez , CEO and Founder of Nena Cosmetics. Since we last talked, she had went to her home in the Philippines and managed to make her cosmetic company the largest one there.

Meeting one day for lunch, we chatted about the weather that hadn’t been cooperating. Not used to the frigid temps of the Windy City, Nena had managed to catch a cold. This has made her more health conscious and also limited the time she had until the returned to the Philippines again. “Business is booming in Asia” she crowed happily. After a successful launch in December with Zalora , the equivalent of Amazon. com , Nena Cosmetics has blossomed. She would spread the word by having one of her make up workshops.”Every time we would have a workshop, business tripled. ” she said. She stayed a little longer to make sure the business was thriving. Happily, we can report the business is growing very fast. Faster than Lorena anticipated. She returns in August for the next step, expansion. When I asked her what this whole process has taught her, she smiled and answered “It has taught me how to delegate.”

We also talked about how life in Chicago is different than the Philippines. “Everything is at a slower pace there. There is no multitasking. If you have an appointment, you go to it and that is it. The traffic goes slower and it takes you all day to do a task.” She also got a little misty eyed when she talked about how her late father would have been so proud of her accomplishments. I nodded and said I understand that totally.

Looking to the future and expansion, I asked her a fun question. If you could have any celebrity as the spokesperson for Nena, who would it be? She loved that and answered that it would be Jennifer Lopez. “She is exotic, yet real. She also has sexy curves and is very talented.”

What has been the most exciting for her is when she returns to her home, she is fast becoming a celebrity. She smiled when she told me that random people come up to her in malls there and recognize. She is fast becoming a household name in Asia. As great as her cosmetics are, I can believe it. For someone who spent the first part of their life with skin problems, they are truly a blessing and they do a great job of keeping my age a secret.

One of the true loves of her life is her baby, Beaufort. She told us that he was a spoiled pup but sadly she couldn’t bring him when she planned her Philippine return in August. In the meantime, she plans to enjoy visiting friends and working on spreading the word here in the States. For some one as beautiful inside and out, that shouldn’t be too hard. The sky is the limit for this diva.


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Sandra’s Stellar Performance at Victory Gardens

sandra oh I have seen quite a few television actors here on the stages of Chicago. One thing they all have in common is they are fighting against the image that the world has perceived of them. After all, they are actors above all. This is especially the case when an actor has made America love them in that role.

Just recently, we had the pleasure of seeing a special production of Ariel Dorfman’s “Death and the Maiden” at Victory Gardens. I was looking forward to this play for a couple of reasons. It seems that the norm now is political dramas, which explains the popularity of shows like “House of Cards” and “Scandal” Dorfman has seemed to hit the nail right on the head with this tale of the result of a coup in  a South American country. The other reason for wanting to see the show was that it features one of my favorite actresses, Sandra Oh fresh from her departure from “Grey’s Anatomy” . Oh portrayed the tortured Paulina with same passion that she did as Dr. Cristina Yang. Paulina is trapped as the typical political wife always trying to put on a front for her husband’s career. The shameless politician -husband is Gerardo played by Raul Castillo. He has been acknowledged by the new government and is happy with his new position. Enter his friend played by John Judd, Judd turns out to be the man that tortured and raped Paulina when she was in school.  Paulina recognizes him and then she breaks. The theme that the audience is left to ponder is if the Doctor is guilty or not guilty. It also questions whether or not violence should begat violence. All three actors gave powerful performances . Miss Oh demonstrated her versatility as an actor to theatre by her range of emotions. You could sense the anger and hurt by the timbre of her voice. Yew should be commended for putting together this high of a caliber  of a play with professional actors on a small stage.

The biggest treat for me and my co editor was the opportunity to meet and chat with the wonderful Ms. Oh. She was more than happy to meet with fans and take photos , This impressed me with the intensity of the role she played. Even after giving it her all, she still took the time out to meet with her fans. I told her that I had done the play myself and of course informed her how much we enjoyed her as Cristina on the ABC hit. She thanked us and then when Jen asked her what was McDreamy really like?, she smiled and said” he really was “McDreamy.”

The run for “Death and the Maiden” has been extended to July 20. I recommend this play to anyone who has a passion to see great theatre done by professional actors. I also say if you are a fan of “Grey’s Anatomy” or Sandra Oh, don’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity. Tickets are available at victorygardens.org or by calling 773-871-3000. Victory Gardens Theatre is located at 2433 N Lincoln Avenue.

death and the maidenPaulina confronts her supposed tormentor Dr Miranda

jen me and yangHere we are meeting the fabulous Sandra Oh. Me and “my person.” She was so nice and had to tell her how much we will miss her on Grey’s and how we cried as they” danced it out. “




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Goldwyn’s Scandalous Role

tony goldwyn outlaw prophet

 There is no denying it, Tony Goldwyn is definitely hot right now. He seems to be involved in all aspects of the industry producing, directing, and acting. Of course, Tony is most known as the seductive, troubled Fitzgerald Grant on ABC’s hit “Scandal.” Goldwyn has spent an entire career playing characters that push the envelope and  Lifetime ‘s “Outlaw Prophet  Warren Jeffs” is no exception.

 Goldwyn plays Warren Jeffs , on the surface he is trying to be the leader of his flock. But beneath the surface, he is a sadistic, child molester who does it in the name of God. Jeffs is part of a sect of the Mormon church that actually encourages polygamy.This includes marriages between elder members of the sect and preteen girls. As a result, there are some disturbing scenes where Jeffs seduces young girls. He actually instructs them how to have sex.

One of the things that struck me with the character was the similarities between the sadistic minister and the charismatic President. Jeffs was cursed with a father who dismissed him as week. (Martin Landau) and Grant’s father did the same. Jeffs feels that it is our Godly duty to reproduce and that is his motivation to seduce young women in the cult. Warning :the scenes with Goldwyn naked with the young girls do not hold the same timbre as when he weekly seduces Olivia Pope. Jeffs seems to be also bigoted which he proves in one of the speeches where he berates homosexuals and blacks to his flock. This is laughable considering on “Scandal” his best friend , Cyrus is gay and the woman he loves is black.

“Outlaw Prophet Warren Jetts” premieres on Lifetime June 28.

tony goldwoyn shot 2

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