Tag Archives: restaurants

30 Days of 30: By the Numbers

Those of you paying close attention may have noticed that the 30 days of 30 technically lasted only 29 days (Jan 5-Feb 2).  There were also a couple of unclaimed days in there, but I filled them by hanging out with my mom and a co-worker.  

BUT… the 30 days aren’t really over yet.  When this blog goes live, I’ll be in Chicago for the finale, so I’m counting my party on Saturday as the 30th day.

If my calculations are correct, here are some other interesting numbers about my 30 days:

60– Number of people I celebrated with this month.* 

36– Number of locations– 16 restaurants, 11 bars**, 1 bakery,  1 arena, 1 bowling alley, 1 movie theater, 1 out of town location (Galena), 1 shopping center, and 3 private residences.  

The most common location for 30 days activities was Bunny’s, followed closely by a tie between Crane Alley and Boltini.   This is notable because I probably haven’t been to either of these places much in the past year, but I really like them.  Houlihan’s and the Courier were the most popular non-drinking establishments. 

6– Number of places I’d never been before: Galena, Bridget’s house, La Gourmandise Bistro, The Brass Rail, The Sandwich shop (whose name I’ve yet to look for), Cakes on Walnut.

14-  Number of different activites: lunch,  dinner, drinks, dessert, Illinois game, bowling, LOST watch, movie, snowboarding, Superbowl party, live band, book club, story teller, trivia

15– Number of times I went out for lunch

13-- Number of times I went out for drinks

6– Number of times I went out for dinner***

2– Number of times I went out for dessert.  Again, notable because I rarely go out just for dessert.

2– Number of Illini games watched**** (one at the Assembly Hall, one at Bunny’s)

2– Number of things I’d never done before:  go snowboarding and listen to a professional story teller

0– Number of pounds I’ve gained.  Seriously. I definitely feel fatter/less healthy, but according to the scale, my weight is the same.

I don’t even want to think about the number of drinks or calories I consumed.  Thank goodness I didn’t have this “by the numbers” idea earlier or else I really would turn into the guy from Supersize Me. Lol.

More importantly, though, I’m amazed at the number of things I was able to cram into one month… and the number of people I convinced to “play along.”  It was really a great experiment and I’m glad I did it.  I highly doubt 31 days of 31 are in my future, though :)

In case you missed them (or just want to relive the fun), here are the weekly recaps:

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Notes on the Methodology

*Includes only people in “my party” and does not include repeats (i.e. if I had lunch with Lisa one day and happy hour another, she is only counted once).

**For this purpose a bar is defined as a place primarily for drinking whereas a restaurant is an eating establishment.  I chose to count them based on why/when I was there.  (i.e. Farren’s is a bar/restaurant, but I was only there for lunch, so it gets counted as a restaurant.)

*** This number is probably lower than it should be.  I counted an event as drinks if drinking was the primary purpose of the activity (i.e. happy hour). It’s more than likely that dinner was also consumed.

**** Again, possibly artificially deflated.  There may have been an Illini game on during a happy hour that I did not record as a “game watch”

30 days of 30: Week 4, Part 1

I know this post is a bit late, but hey– I’ve been busy.  I’m doing the final week re-cap in two parts.  Look for part 2: The Weekend soon.  And there should be a couple more 30 days posts next week.  And then I’m done… promise :)

Monday–  Officially slated as an “off” day, I’m giving this one to my co-worker Kara.  We took a much-needed Jimmy John’s break at lunch.  Plus, her day kinda got usurped later in the week, so it all works out.

Tuesday–  After dinner at The Courier, Lindsey and I braved blizzard-like conditions to attend Tuesday Night Trivia at Boltini.   Let me tell you… it was hard!!  At one point we were going for “funny points” and even those were getting rejected.  When we wrote “condoms” as the answer to a word riddle, the announcer said:

 “Just FYI– the letters don’t actually spell anything… it’s just the next letters in the sequence.”   Uh, we know.   We just didn’t know the letters.  We were trying to be funny.  D’oh.

Needless to say, we didn’t win… or even stay for the whole thing.  But it was fun and we’ll definitely do it again.  In the summer.  With a much larger group!

Wednesday–  I was triple-booked on Wednesday.  I had a lunch date with Jacelyn (my co-worker), plans with my friend Doug, and plans to watch Lost with my co-worker Kara. 

I knew I couldn’t do it all, so Kara joined Jacelyn and I for lunch at a new sandwich place in Urbana (on Race, across from the Courier… I’ll find out the name).  The food was good, but it was clear that they were just opening.  I’ll go back after they’ve had a chance to get their feet wet.

After work, my friend Doug picked me up (and helped clear my driveway–thanks, man!) and we went to 7 Saints.  As you may recall, this is one of the places I hadn’t yet been, so I was excited to go.   It didn’t disappoint.  It was actually fairly crowded for a Wednesday night and of course we ran into people we know– a mutual friend of ours and then a co-worker of mine and his friend. 

Doug is a Republican, but we managed to hang out for at least 3 hours w/o getting into any fights… a pretty successful night in my book ;)  Oh, and thanks to all the “practice” I’ve had lately,  I managed to drink him under the table.  Thank goodness he was driving!  I didn’t make it home in time to watch Lost,  but it was okay.  A perfectly lovely evening.

Thursday– Another day of multiple bookings.  First it was lunch at Dos Reales with Jennifer (aka Red).  Red is my BFF from high school and even though we’ve stayed in touch over the years, we don’t always get a chance to hang out, so it was super nice to sit and chat with her. 

Thursday night was officially Tonya’s night.  We decided to meet for drinks and were trying to decide where to go when  Cory said he was going to Bunny’s to watch the game  (The Illini game– remember that horrible loss to Minnesota?  Yep, that one!).   So, off to Bunny’s it was– for the nth time this month! 

It was super fun, though.  Bobbi came out and Cory’s friend Harper was there.   AND… the Illiniettes.  We had a great time making fun of their drama.   No, not nice, but fun nonetheless.   And I convinced Ron to come out later, after he got off work and we had already had multiple buckets.  Maybe not the best idea in retrospect, but it was a good time.  

 One more work day until the Birthday Weekend Extravaganza.

To Be Continued . . .

30 days of 30: Week 3

I’m almost on the home stretch in my 30 days of 30.  Here’s how week 3 played out:

Monday–   Drinks at Boltini with Scott, Kurt & Charlie.  I was drinking Pear Gimlets, which I fully intent to re-create at home with the Pear vodka I got as a gift.

Scott got me a book of T.S. Eliot poems to help me with my resolution to appreciate poetry.  Kurt photocopied a poem for me later in the week, too.  Books are some of the most thoughtful/personal gifts you can give someone, especially if it’s something you enjoy. I’ve been reading the poems before I go to bed and I’ve certainly gained a better appreciation for the craft.  

Food Note: I highly recommend the goat cheese crostini and the pretzel “fondue.”  Not your average bar food, but oh-s0-good!

Tuesday–  Dinner with Kelli D. at Olive Garden.  Kelli is a childhood friend of mine.  We recently re-connected and through the magic of facebook we stay in pretty close contact. But it was nice to see her in prson for a change and to get an update on her kids, work, etc. It was her first day going back to working nights after being off for a long time, so I’m glad we were able to hang out, even for a little bit.  

Wednesday– Dinner and drinks at Flat Top with Bridget.   She got me the coolest Juno card.  It speaks the line about being cool w/o even trying when you open it.  Awesome!   We then went back to her house for the LOST premiere.  We’re both huge fans and it was nice to watch with someone as crazy, er, dedicated as me!  I also got the opportunity to meet her super-cool boyfriend and their dog Oscar.  Fun night (once we figured out how to open the wine bottle. lol.)

Food note:  We didn’t have dessert at Flat Top, but the guys next to us had some sort of molten chocolate/ice cream concoction.  It looked soooooo good.  I never have room for dessert when I go there, but it might be worth a try.

Thursday–  This was officially Erin’s day since we missed our date earlier this month.  I had lunch with my besties– Steph, Erin, Kim at Houlihan’s.   Including me, this represented half of the email circle, so I guess you could say we had a quarum.   It’s never a dull moment with those girls and I love them dearly.   

Friday– Bobbi and I had planned on going to see The Dark Knight because it was allegedly going to be re-released in the theaters this weekend.I even held off watching it on DVD because I was excited to see it on the big screen.  But apparently it’s not playing here.  So Bobbi, Cory, and I did our usual Friday night happy hour at Bunny’s.  I met their friend Jamie, who was super nice. It was fun and low-key and just what the doctor ordered!

Saturday–  Because of the (relatively) early Friday night, I was uber-productive Saturday during the day.  Then I went to Fat City to celebrate Kristin and Muffy’s birthdays.  It was good to see everyone, but I think I might (gasp!) be getting a little sick of the bar scene.  Shocking, I know!

Sunday–  No one had signed up for today, and I was okay with that.  Cory and I talked about maybe going bowling, but decided to wait for another day when more people could come.  

I stayed in bed reading until noon.  My mom came up to deliver my computer desk (a  Christmas present that was still at her house!), we went to lunch and I’ve been reading, writing, and messing around online ever since.  So, I’m officially marking this day on my 30 days of 30 calendar as Cari day!

PS: 30 days of food

I haven’t really written much about the food I’ve been eating for a number of reasons:

a) this isn’t a food blog
b) I’m not much for taking pix of food (I’ll leave that to Lisa!) and
c) I don’t really think my readers need a meal-by-meal account of what I’ve eaten.

Having said that, though, I have a few recommendations to make:

  • Dessert at Crane Alley– We were all excited about the bread pudding, until they told us they were out.  And then they magically had some left–yay!  It was okay, but the lemon cake was to die for.   A slice of that and a favorite coffee drink were the perfect way to spend a chilly winter night with friends.  I never get dessert unless I’m travelling, so this was a great treat.
  • Radio Maria– I’ve never been disappointed by their food. They were serving brunch that day, but I needed some substance, so I got the Cuban Sandwich, which I’d had before.  But the highlight of the day was the cornbread.  It’s served warm with honey and orange zest and something else I can’t remember. Phenomenal!!
  • Soup’s On! I’m a big fan of the soup-and-salad lunch.  Since it has been so cold lately, I’ve had the opportunity to sample soups at a number of different places.   The chicken and pasta soup at Luna was perfect– way better than anything that comes out of a can.   Similarly, the chicken gumbo at Escobar’s really hit the spot.
    I also had an interesting “stew” at Farren’s on Friday.  It was billed as a pork and root vegetable stew, but the consistency and flavor reminded me of vegetable beef soup.  Of course the “beef” was pork, but it wasn’t as thick as a traditional stew.  Very tasty, just not what I expected.  On the other hand, I had a lentil “soup” at La Gourmandise Bistro that was entirely too thick. I like lentils… and have a great recipe for lentil soup that I love,  but this was not what I expected.  Thank goodness for the dessert at Crane Alley afterwards!

30 days of 30: Week 2

Whew… what a week!   Here’s the rundown:

Monday– Lunch at Luna with co-workers Kurt and Scott

Tuesday– Lunch at Houlihan’s with Tracy, Cynthia, and Julie. I used to play Bunco with these girls and now we keep up via facebook, so it was nice to see them in person after way too long!

WednesdayJanet’s day (see earlier post).

Then I went to the Illini game with Cory, Bobbi, and Lacey.  They were the best seats I’ve ever been in:  12 rows up, right behind the Orange Crush (cell phone pic doesn’t do it justice.)

seats

view from our seats

Thursday–  Book club.  We discussed Freakanomics, which was universally enjoyed.  I’ll consider this day Bonny’s, since she hosted and Scott and Kurt both have their own days.

Friday–   Ron’s day.   The plan?  To go to bars we don’t normally go to.  Ron was going to pick 3 and I was going to pick 3.  Cool.

Then Cory called and wanted to do Happy Hour.  Since Ron had dinner plans, it worked out well.  I met Cory and Co. at Bunny’s for happy hour. (If you click the Bunny’s link, you’ll see a pic of Cory at a parking lot party last summer– he’s as famous for Bunny’s as I am for the Esquire–ahah!). We drank buckets, ate Bosco sticks and played some Euchre.  Ron showed up, hung out for a bit and then it was off to meet Chad for the bar crawl.

First stop:  The Embassy.  There was a band, so we had to pay a $5 cover charge, even though we only stayed for one drink.  Then we went to Crane Alley, The Brass Rail and Bentley’s.  The last two bars are the only ones I hadn’t been to before.  And  I don’t ever need to step foot in the Brass Rail again, but I’ll definitely go back to Bentley’s.

All in all, it was a good night… but Happy Hour + Bar crawl was probably not one of my best ideas.

Saturday– Saturday was like two nights in one.

First I met Andrea and Amanda (from boot camp) at La Gourmandise Bistro for dinner and to listen to a storyteller.  I’d never been to the bistro before and I’d never heard a storyteller, so it was a bunch of firsts for me.  The bistro was cute (although I made a poor soup selection) and the storyteller was entertaining, but nothing to write home about.   We left after the first act and went to Crane Alley for drinks and dessert.   It was great to be able to hang out with those girls.  I miss boot camp!

After that, I met Erin, Jeff, Jaime, Dave, Chachi, Bubba, Nikki and Andrea at Boltini.  They had been out for some family birthdays and were getting ready to leave when I got there.  I had one drink and then we went to Fat City.  If you haven’t been there yet, it’s exactly the same.  Only nicer.  If that makes much sense.   Erin, Jeff, Jaime, and Dave left and the rest of us headed to Tumble Inn.

100_1928

Chachi & I @ Tumble Inn

Erin & Chachi @ Fat City

Erin & Chachi @ Fat City

As usual, TI was a late night Mecca for Unity grads, so there were plenty of people I knew there (some of whom I didn’t actually talk to).  I stayed until close, but this was a much calmer night than  the bar crawl.  It pays to pace oneself.

Sunday–  Since Monday is a holiday, my sister Kelli signed up for Sunday night.   Kelli, her boyfriend Doug, and my brother David picked me up at noon and we went to Radio Maria for lunch.  To my surprise, my mom, Aunt Linda, and Uncle Denny were there as well.  We had a nice lunch and I think I was able to introduce some of them to a new restaurant, so that was kinda cool.

After lunch, we had a drink at the Esquire and then went back to TI to watch some football. (Okay, it was mostly so some of the crowd could smoke, but whatever.)   It was a fun afternoon, but I was super tired from the rest of the weekend.   I came home with full intentions of watching the Steelers game, but fell asleep on the couch.  For 12 hours.   I must’ve been tired.

Definitely a super fun-filled week.  It’s so cool to be able to hang out with so many different people and try new things. After the first week-o-lunches I was starting to think all I was going to do was eat… but now I’m looking forward to some low-key non-drinking events in the days to come!

A few observations at the half-way point:

  • If “professional storyteller” is a real job, then I think I might have a new career path.  If that lady can get up and tell stories–so can I!!
  • I really need to try to take more pictures, but I’m usually just having a good time hanging out with people that I forget I even have my camera.  Maybe next week.
  • Pacing is key.  Even though 8 bars in 3 days sounds like fun… functioning the next day is important!  I really am starting to feel almost 30.

I Love Janet

Okay, so I’m not going to blog about each of my 30 days of 30.  But today was truly special, so it deserves it’s own shout-out.  Today was Janet’s day.  She’s is one of my favorite co-workers.  She doesn’t do anything just halfway so I knew there’d be some fun stuff in store for me.

The Button:  A couple years ago at our Annual Convention, one of the exhibitors was giving away these “I Love Janet” buttons.  Of course we all had to grab some for ourselves and wear them around.  

janet

So, imagine my amusement when I saw this on my desk when I got to work  this morning: (It says: “How could it be?  Cari is nearly 30. We love Cari!”)

button

The Gift:  On the way to lunch, Janet gave me a present wrapped in what else– a brochure that I  produced a couple years ago.  Janet said she doesn’t really like the idea of wrapping paper, and what better packaging than to use my own work?  Genius!

100_1909

100_1912

The gift itself was a copy of a book called Same Kind of Different As Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together.  It’s a book she’s read with some other people and said it reminded her of me because when she thinks of me she thinks of trying to change the world.  That might be one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.

The food:   We had a wonderful lunch at Escobar’s (Spinach salad with a cup of chicken gumbo– highly recommended) and then went to Cakes on Walnut for a cupcake-to-go (carrot cake, which was consumed before I left work).

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all the events of my 30 days thus far and I appreciated Janet’s thoughtfulness and creativity.  Maybe I should turn 30 more often!!

My best of C-U list

Inspired by this post from Whitney Matheson (of PopCandy fame), I was thinking about all the things I’d miss about C-U if I should ever leave this town.    

So here, in no particular order, are my personal picks for the Best of C-U.  For most of these, I’ve linked to the official site. Where none were available I linked to the listing on yelp.  I love yelp, btw. You should check it out.

Best happy hour bar:  Esquire
Peanuts, beer, and homeade pineapple margaritas–what more could you ask for?  (Plus, they put me and my friends on their web site!)

Best last call bar:  Tumble Inn
The only bar on the list I’ve been going to consistently since I was 19.  (Okay, 17–but don’t tell anyone).  It’s a bit of a hole-in-the wall, but it has improved in recent years due to the smoking ban (and the smoking-ban inspired “beer” garden).   Tumble Inn… Stumble Out, always open late. (yet, curiously, they don’t have Red Bull… for that you’ll have to go to The Phoenix, nearby)

Best beer deal:  Bunny’s
You can get a bucket of 5 beers for $10.  Can’t beat it with a stick.  Speaking of sticks, Bunny’s also gets a shut out for their Bosco sticks.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Bosco stick, it’s a breadstick stuffed with cheese and then deep fried.  Horribly unhealthy, but delicious!

Best beer selection:  The Blind Pig
Hands down.  There might be isn’t a larger beer selection anywhere in C-U, and the Pig wins for atmosphere. 

Best nachos:  Guidos
I’m kinda picky about my nachos and Guidos never disappoints.

Best lunch spot:   It’s a toss up between The Courier Cafe and Farrens.

Courier– Skinny dippers, milkshakes and salad bar.  Great atmosphere.  Courier gets the award for Best Breakfast, too.
Farren’s-- Home of Farren’s Fridays, I adore their Kobe Burger, tacos, and daily specials. 

Best pizza: Jupiter’s
Thin, crispy and great sauce, Jupiter’s (downtown) is the best.  Jupiter II creeps me out.  
Honorable mention: Papa Del’s.  Jupiters wins because I prefer thin crust, but if you’re in the mood for a deep dish pizza, the Del is the best.  (Note: this is my Best of  C-U list… if you’re willing to go a few miles South, I highly recommend the original Monical’s in Tolono.)

Best ice cream– Custard Cup
 Duh.  Okay, so it’s custard, but why would you go anywhere else?  Unless, of course, it’s closed.  Then you can go to Cold Stone or whatever.  But only until Custard Cup opens back up.  Seriously. 

Best cockails:  Boltini
I highly recommend the Bellini-tini from Boltini  (say that  ten times fast!)

Best sandwich– Chicken pesto at Crane Alley

Best wine selection: Friar Tuck
I especially like how they list the wine ratings and “best value” wines.  I’ve never been disappointed.

Best wine tastings:  Sun Singer
I enjoy their little cafe and bar area.  You don’t really feel like you’re tasting in a store .

Friendliest wine staff: The Corkscrew
Although I buy most of my wine at Friar Tuck and I go to more tastings at The Sun Singer, I’ve always found the staff at The Corkscrew to be incredibly friendly and knowledgeable.  Plus, I needed to show a little Urbana love. 

Best place to see a show:  The Highdive
I know, I know, the Canopy Club is bigger, but I like the openness and set up of the High Dive better.

Most anticipated bar re-opening:  Fat City 
I spent a great deal of time at this bar in the old days.  I hear they’re re-opening on Friday.  I cannot wait!

Best place to take a date: Radio Maria

I recently had this discussion with a bunch of guy friends.  Although we couldn’t come to a consensus, Radio Maria was mentioned most often.  Other top selections include:  Cafe Luna (now apparently called just ‘Luna’), Milo’s, and Bacaro.  Kamakura is also fun for group dates.

Best chicken strips:  The Boomerang  
Honestly, I haven’t been there in years, but their chicken strips are phenomenal.  Honorable mention:  Rocks

Best sushi:  KoFusion
Is there any other choice?  It’s also fun for a swanky after-work cocktail. Or three.

Best way to spend a Saturday in the Fall:  Tailgating before an Illini football game

And so you don’t think I spend ALL my time eating and drinking:

Best place to buy gifts:  Art Mart
Go there.  There’s lots of cool stuff from stationary to jewelry to lotion to household products.

Best bookstore:  Pages for All Ages
If I’m needed something cheap, I’ll buy from Amazon.  Otherwise, it’s Pages all the way.  Support local bookstores! 

Best way to spend a Saturday morning in the summer:   The Market at the Square
Call me crunchy, but I love strolling through the various vendors, buying locally grown produce and bread.  Its close enough that I can walk… and right by my gym so I can fit in a workout afterwards

So, those are my picks.  Do you agree?  What have I missed?