Cohen’s Bagel Company

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Cohen’s has the best bagel I’ve eaten in over a decade on the Connecticut shore. We stopped in for a late Monday breakfast, around noon, and there were still many bagels.

cohens bagel company madison connecticut lox onion 3rdarm

I got egg and bacon on an onion bagel. It was prepared in less than ten minutes and the flavors really came together on a toasty, slightly chewy bagel. These bagels are made with good water!

Sunday Roast

aunt judy blasko sunday roast pork loin guilford connecticut 3rdarm

Aunty went above and beyond in her own kitchen during our visit. The first night we had delicious meatloaf, mashed potatoes (my favorite) and glazed carrots (good for AJ’s eyes).

aunt judy blasko sunday roast pork loin guilford connecticut 3rdarm

On Sunday, Aunty made a roast of pork loin. It slow-cooked in the oven for hours and was more than worth the wait! Not that any of us was busy doing anything while it cooked, or even changed out of our pajamas that Sunday…

Union League Cafe

union league cafe french cuisine new haven connecticut arthur mullen judy blasko judith etta kostick 3rdarm

Where to begin… Union League Café served some of the most amazing classic French dishes I have had. I would go back ASAP for more!

union league cafe french cuisine new haven connecticut arthur mullen judy blasko judith etta kostick 3rdarm

We made a reservation for dinner right at 5PM. It was a cold, snowy early evening and we had time to kill after the play, so we went for a short appetite-building walk thru the New Haven green.

At 5:03PM we realized that we had been patiently waiting outside the wrong door, and returned to the front entrance for dinner. :-)

union league cafe french cuisine new haven connecticut arthur mullen judy blasko judith etta kostick 3rdarm

Service gets top marks. Our server was super professional, and at the same time warm and humorous. The Maitre D graciously stopped by to wish us a marvelous dinner, in a very French accent. I overheard him demand to taste the new dessert straight away- I liked his style.

union league cafe french cuisine new haven connecticut arthur mullen judy blasko judith etta kostick 3rdarm

Etta praised her sidecar, my aunt loved her tea, and I was happy to see a selection of mocktails in the Fresh Fruit category of the drinks menu. Winter is citrus season and both the blood orange and meyer lemon drinks were delicious.

union league cafe french cuisine new haven connecticut arthur mullen judy blasko judith etta kostick 3rdarm

The food started with beautiful fresh-baked bread and butter, as well as a small French pastry filled with cheese and potatoes. I have to find out the name of these- I was instantly hooked.

Oysters and clams were expertly shucked so that the shells were full to the brim with salt water liqueur. Raw bar shrimp were truly jumbo, flavorful, and the cocktail sauce hit just enough of a floral note to make it classic and unique at the same time.

union league cafe french cuisine new haven connecticut arthur mullen judy blasko judith etta kostick 3rdarm

I also had a fantastic salad of baby spinach and sharp Roquefort blue cheese, with toasted pecans and warm poached peaches. It was now that I began to see a pattern- every dish being brought to the table was being cleaned completely.

There’s no way that will continue through the entree course, I thought, not with these birds (Aunty Judy and Etta.). And yet cod brandade, steak bearnaise and lamb chops arrived and disappeared. This is French cuisine par excellence, and I couldn’t fault any of those mains or their garnishes.

union league cafe french cuisine new haven connecticut arthur mullen judy blasko judith etta kostick 3rdarm

We had preordered a chocolate soufflé for dessert. The big surprise was that Aunty and Etta ordered two more desserts as well! They cleaned their plates of profiteroles, petit fours and mignardises, sharing barely a bite, and the entire time remarking how they could not believe that I was eating an entire chocolate soufflé by myself.

I’m the big dog! I eat appetizer, entree and dessert every time I step foot in a restaurant. ULC cast a spell of powerfully delicious French cuisine executed at the highest level, bewitching Aunt Judy and Etta into believing they could run and bark with the big dog!

Union League Café is the most magical restaurant in the city of New Haven and I can’t wait to go back!

New Haven Green

new haven green judy blasko arthur mullen etta kostick 3rdarm snow winter

Under appreciated is what comes to mind when I see an average of just over three stars! New Haven residents may not realize how good they have it!

Not every city has an enchanting green space in the heart of downtown. In the warmer months, a bench on the New Haven green is best shared with fries and a milkshake from Shake Shack. There are Yale freshmen to watch in their awkward orientations.

new haven green judy blasko arthur mullen etta kostick 3rdarm snow winter

In the colder months there is a big glowing tree to brighten the days and nights of green-goers. Kids frolic in the snow. In all seasons the green affords a small dose of exercise- just the right amount- after a matineé or afternoon at the museum, before its time for dinner.

Count your blessings, New Haven! Your historic grand green is a beautiful thing.

Shubert Theater

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What a gem for New Haven! This historic theater (100 years and counting) retains much of its charming interior, from the private boxes and gigantic columns flanking the stage, to the beautiful lobby.

shubert theater new haven arthur mullen judy blasko judith 3rdarm etta kostick white christmas

Aunty, Etta and I saw a Saturday matineé of White Christmas: our holiday gift from AJ. There was no traffic to speak of, other than the I-95 bridge that’s been under construction for the past 50 years or so… (exaggeration, maybe!)

shubert theater new haven arthur mullen judy blasko judith 3rdarm etta kostick white christmas

There was event parking in the garage next door for a super reasonable $8. We found the ushers warm and inviting, and seats to be comfy with a good view of the stage and great sound. The show, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, started on time, the production (and casting!) exceeded my expectations.

shubert theater new haven arthur mullen judy blasko judith 3rdarm etta kostick white christmas

It was in all ways comparable to a Broadway show. A look back at the amazing performers (Julie Andrews, Sidney Poitier, etc) who have graced the Shubert stage confirms that it is truly a legendary theater!

Super Tortadawg

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You would think I would have had my share of tortas already- but no! I always eat at this Tortas Frontera (and the one in Terminal 1) when I fly out of O’Hare. Tortas were built for this kind of energetic environment, and with all the thousands of passersby they practically sell themselves on sight and smell alone. The fact is they live up to the reputation of the Chef.

chicago superdawg tortas frontera arthur mullen xoco manager meatball torta albondigas 3rdarm

My favorite part of Tortas Frontera is that it’s always changing and exciting. During this visit I had a sweet and savory that weren’t on the menu just a few weeks ago. The chefs special was an amazing torta albondigas. Spicy, smoky, acidic and most importantly, meaty! For dessert, we tried Lucila’s Chicago-made alfajores- crumbly Argentinean cookies sandwiching soft and sweet goat’s milk caramel.

Tortas Frontera has some of the best tortas I’ve ever had, and the dynamic style of service perfectly suits one of the most bustling airports in the country.

Codex

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I have been reading this book The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kobert. It’s about human history; the story of our species now, in the seventies, in 10000 BC, a hundred thousand years ago; how the whole story is one of human beings driving change on earth. Change for us means agriculture, cities, the Rolling Stones, and means species extinction, global warming, ocean acidification for everything else. Geologically, we are now in the epoch of human beings. Millions of years on, when the next species looks back at us, they won’t see our books, buildings, music, they will see a paper thin layer of rock in the sediment record that will tell this story. This story has been coming into focus for as long as humans have been telling stories.

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I love learning about this and the thing is it’s not easy reading, it’s dark. At the same time there is a flip side the coin that we have the capacity within ourselves to “do the right thing”, to figure this stuff out and transcend destructive behavior, and I believe one way or another, we will. Life finds a way! And I can’t think of any band whose music is more closely tied to this story, the scale, tone, rhythm, lyrics and changes, better than Radiohead. When a new book comes out about climate change or extinction, and when Radiohead comes out with a new record about thousand year old trees, I feel the synergy between the two, and to me, that’s exciting! We are finding the way out together…

Link to Radiohead “Basement session,” where they perform the entire ancient arboreal album, The King of Limbs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5DvM4GObIN4

Beautiful Rivers and Mountains

christmas empanadas sunset chicago west town december Arthur Lucia Jeff Mullen 3rdarm

The month started out as one of the darkest December on record in Chicago. The sun was shining for only 16 percent of the daylight hours through the solstice. Normally I get quite down, but this year it was more of a mania than a depression. I put my head down and pushed through.

christmas empanadas sunset chicago west town december Arthur Lucia Jeff Mullen 3rdarm

My Christmas present is the peace of mind that all my files are now backed up on the massive cloud that is Google Drive. Etta and I ate Lucia’s ham and cheese empanadas and Hoosier Mama ginger cream pie. We watched Chris Schlesinger and Doc Willoughby grill quahogs in the chef’s backyard , and 2 Michelin star cooking on Master Chef Professional. The day was capped with a beautiful, optimistic late December sunset.

Chile Colorado

jeff lucia fortin etta kostick oyster cat chile colorado 3rdarm christmas eve

This year I did not go home for the holidays. Instead, Etta and I will head over to the East Coast the first week of the New Year, when I have time off from work. Our good friends Jeff and Lucia invited us over to their house for Christmas Eve.

jeff lucia fortin etta kostick oyster cat chile colorado 3rdarm christmas eve

While their cats Oyster and Nervy Nate rolled around the bathtub, Lucia served us her family’s recipe for delicious Chile Colorado. Later, we had arugula and spinach soup with queso fresco, and savory empanadas with chile arbol and chimichurri.

jeff lucia fortin etta kostick oyster cat chile colorado 3rdarm christmas eve

The big surprise came later, when I learned my cousin Amy had become a mother!

Native North America

noche buena salad beets goat cheese sweet crepes roly poly cat 3rdarm arthur mullen chicago

Instead of grubhub, this week Etta bought food at the grocery store. She made many delicious dishes and my favorite was her salad similar to the dish served in many Mexican homes on Christmas Eve.

noche buena salad beets goat cheese sweet crepes roly poly cat 3rdarm arthur mullen chicago

It was a “Noche Buena” style salad of arugula, beets, blue cheese, and a apple cider-honey vinaigrette.

noche buena salad beets goat cheese sweet crepes roly poly cat 3rdarm arthur mullen chicago

For dessert Etta made sweet crepes filled with ricotta cheese, blackberries and strawberries.

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