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Tim Foolery

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Brass Heart – Fine Dining Chicago

Brass Heart is Chicago’s newest Fine Dining Restaurant.  Taking the place of 42 Grams, the stellar Two-Michelin-Starred Restaurant in Chicago’s Uptown Neighborhood. We loved 42 Grams from jump, and I was personally surprised at its abrupt closing.  You can Google more about that, but I refuse to support a chef with abusive tendencies, no matter how amazing the food is.

Brass Heart opened in late August and I’ve been looking forward to popping over for a while now.  Deciding to pull the trigger before it becomes impossible to snag a reservation, I searched just four days ahead of time and found an early spot for two on a Saturday.  While 17h30 is usually too early for me, I figured I would make an exception this time.

Unlike 42 Grams, which was fully BYOB (YES! A 2 Starred resto and BYO to boot), Brass Heart has a lovely cocktail and wine menu.  While not outrageously extensive, it was very respectable and the prices are perfectly in line with the neighborhood and the City as a whole.

We arrived a few minutes before our reservation.  The space is small, and without a proper separate bar, we didn’t want to crowd the space….although, the only people there when we arrived were also dining at 17h30.  We were seated immediately upon arrival and were welcomed by several staff members.

When booking the reservation I selected the nine-course tasting menu, so our only real decision was beverages.  We could do the wine pairings or select individual cocktails, glasses of wine or bottles.  We obviously chose the pairings – we always do.

Brass Heart Chicago

Full Nine Course Tasting Menu

Brass Heart Chicago

Osetra Caviar, Pumpkin

Brass Heart Chicago

Osetra Caviar, Pumpkin

Brass Heart Chicago

Ham and Eggs

Brass Heart Chicago

Ham and Eggs

Brass Heart Chicago

Mulligatawny Soup – Ham and Egg Alternative

Brass Heart Chicago

Duck, Apple, Black Walnut

Brass Heart Chicago

Duck, Apple, Black Walnut

Brass Heart

Brioche, Fried Chicken, Honey

Brass Heart Chicago

Brioche, Fried Chicken, Honey

Brass Heart Chicago

Rice and Beans

Brass Heart Chicago

Rice and Beans

Brass Heart Chicago

Duck Fat Halibut, Celery Root, Matsutake

Brass Heart Chicago

A5 Kobe, Chanterelle, Pommes Souffle

Brass Heart Chicago

Quince, Acorn Squash, Granola

Brass Heart Chicago

Gateaux d’Epices, Paw Paw, Bourbon

Brass Heart Chicago

Petit Fours

Brass Heart Chicago

Petit Fours

The meal was stellar.  We loved every part of our experience.  The wine pairings were on point.  There were a surprisingly large number of Oregon wines on the wine list, which we all know is the quickest way to my heart.  The nine-course tasting menu is $125 per person, plus $75 for the wine pairings.  While this isn’t a cheap night out, it’s cheaper than most other fine dining options in Chicago.  My recommendation:  Make reservations NOW while you can still get in!

Have you dined at Brass Heart?  Did you dig the wine pairings?  Which course was your favorite?

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NOSHtrekker Private Dining Singapore

Finding a unique dining experience ranks among the top things we focus on when traveling.  This doesn’t have to mean a Michelin Starred restaurant or one ranked on the World’s Top 50 List.  Our requirements are more broad than that.  We want a good meal, with an equally engaging experience. Now that could be a tasting menu, a cooking class, or local casual food eaten on a squat stool.  In Singapore we found a private dining experience that was like nothing we’d had before. NOSHtrekker brings a truly unique experience to discerning travelers.

With only 68 Hours in Singapore, I knew I wanted to make the most of it.  The idea of a Michelin Rated Restaurant just wasn’t exciting me.  I decided to step out of my normal routine and after a bit of Googling, I found articles written about a newer service in Singapore.  This group offered private dining experiences, food tours and cooking classes that focus on Singapore’s rich cultural heritage.

The Selection

With more than a dozen unique options to choose from, you’ll have a hard time picking one.  I quickly decided that I wanted a full dinner and a relaxing space the day I arrived in Singapore.  A few emails and a Paypal payment later we were all set.

We’d be joining the Masala Mistress for dinner.  We wouldn’t be helping shop for or make dinner, we’d just be eating.  Just be eating.  Looking back on our time with Dhershini, it’s hard to say we “just ate” with a straight face.  Let’s start at the beginning.

The Experience

We arrived at her home at 19h30. Yes, we dined in her home.  It was about a 20 minute walk from the closest MRT station and upon our arrival, she greeted us like long time friends.  She welcomed us into her home, offered us some refreshing juice and escorted us to a lovely sitting area on her patio.  She had help in her kitchen, so the meal prep would continue uninterrupted while we chatted.

I can’t properly say how warm and welcoming Dhershini was.  She made us feel at home, in hers.  We initially talked travel – she was enthralled with the idea of my flying 45 hours to spend just 68 in Singapore.  She had lived much of her life in Singapore and was honest about that time.  While the discussion was mostly positive, she did talk about immigration struggles, political change in the City/State and the region and even discussions on climate change.

Her husband had recently passed away and that was still really impacting her. When she spoke of him – he was an avid traveler too – you could see how she both lit up and was hurting.  This wasn’t a restaurant meal.  This was a meal with a friend.

NOSHtrekker requires a minimum of two guests (which we had) but you can have many more depending on what you select as your experience.  Since there were only two of us, Dhershini was joined by another NOSHtrekker – Heather (I believe).  The four of us enjoyed drinks (both alcoholic and non), and talked throughout the whole experience.

The Meal

The meal was a traditional Indian from Kerala.  Served family style, we had vegetarian dishes, mutton and chicken.  The four of us sat at the family’s dining table while Dhershini’s assistant finished the meal.  She even continued to make more dishes as we ate.  Some things were just too good to stop eating!

We were encouraged to take photos and share our experience on social media.  I will say, it did feel odd to take pictures of this lovely woman’s home and blast it on social.  As you can see, my pictures are very limited and they sure don’t do the whole experience justice.  When taking photos, sometimes you have to step away – step out of the experience to get the right shot. I didn’t want to do that. I was having too much fun.

NOSHtrekker Dinner Table

Dinner is served with the Masala Mistress

Dhershini and Heather (?) seemed like they were our old friends.  These experiences are billed as about 2-2.5 hours long. We stayed there for just under four. There was never any feeling that we had overstayed our welcome – or that there would be a surcharge for the extra time.  We were just talking – telling travel tales, talking about food, life and the future.  At this point, I had been up for days, traveling half way around the planet and I was getting sleepy.  We needed to excuse ourselves.

This was so much like a friend’s dinner party, that Heather offered to drive us back to our hotel in her cute little convertible.  We reluctantly took her up on the offer, but made her agree to drop us off at the MTA station on her way home.  No need to go out of her way on our account.  I wouldn’t even ask a great friend to do that!

Final Thoughts

At the end of it all, our time with Dhershini and Heather was utterly stellar.  A completely new experience for us, but one that I wouldn’t hesitate to do again.  Dhershini is a cookbook author, former restaurateur and culinary ambassador for the Singapore Tourism Board – could you find a better dinner companion?  I think not.

Have you worked with NOSHtrekker before?  For a truly amazing private dining experience in Singapore, you really can’t go wrong.  Also, I should remind everyone that we did pay for this experience – no part of it was comped (other than the ride partway back to our hotel).  This is truly our thoughts on this unique experience.  Go give them a try and tell them Tim (that crazy guy from Chicago who spent just 68 hours in Singapore) sent you!

Need Advice: Argentina Trip

Each year, we travel somewhere for Thanksgiving.  We find it a great time to leave the country as no one is traveling for business that week and most Americans are traveling domestically.  We’ve traveled to Ireland, Mexico City, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Colorado, and Oregon for Thanksgiving.  This year, we are heading south to Argentina.  This will be my first visit to the country, while it will be Mike’s second.

Thanksgiving in Argentina

Thanksgiving in Mendoza, where to go?

So far, we’ve book airfare down to and back from Argentina as well as flights inside the country.  We’ve chosen our cities to visit and the hotels in which to stay.  We’ll be staying in Cordoba, Mendoza and finally a few days in Buenos Aires.  I’ve only made reservations for one meal while we are there too – our final night in Buenos Aires, we are hitting a lovely fine dining restaurant as we celebrate Thanksgiving.

I need your help though.  I’m looking for advice from travelers and locals who can tell us great places to eat and wineries to visit.  Frequent readers know that I love a good bike tour, so any recommendations on who to ride while while in Argentina, let me know.

What is the one thing you wish you had done while you were in Argentina?  What about the one thing you wish you hadn’t done?

Sights and Sounds of Singapore

The sights and sounds of Singapore can be overwhelming. Before leaving for Singapore I made a list of all the things I must do before I leave the city. I do this every time I am in a new city or when I travel alone, which this was a little bit of both. I wasn’t alone, but much of the days I was exploring by myself.

No matter where you turn, you see something wonderful. It is a very clean city, so you aren’t burdened with the sights or smell of trash on the streets. I saw no homeless or beggars. Being in a quasi-benevolent-dictatorship you don’t get to see a lot of the bad things other metropolises have.

Here are some of my favorite sights of Singapore and should be on every first time visitors list (and on many returning visitors’ too).

Chinatown

Chinatown in Singapore

Chinatown in Singapore is bustling at night.

Marina Bay Sands

Marina Bay Sands

Marina Bay Sands

The infinity pool at Marina Bay Sands looks quite different from this angle.

Gardens by the Bay

Gardens By the Bay

Gardens by the bay is a sensory feast.

Gardens By the Bay

View from Marina Bay Sands of Gardens by the Bay

Hawker Stall Meals

Kitchen views at Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle

The kitchen hard at work Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle

Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle

Our pork noodle and soup was totally worth the wait.

Hawker Stall Market

Telok Ayer Market

Singapore Botanic Gardens / National Orchid Gardens

National Orchid Garden at the Singapore Botanical Gardens

Orchid’s at the National Orchid Garden.

Performance Space at the Singapore Botanic Gardens

Performance Space at the Singapore Botanic Gardens

Arches at the National Orchid Garden in Singapore

The famous arches at the National Orchid Garden

Merlion Park

Merlion Park Singapore

The Merlion Statue with a beautiful skyline in the background

Chinese Gardens Singapore

Pagodas in Singapore

Twin Pagodas at the Chinese Gardens in Singapore

Chinese Garden Singapore

Statuary and Pagoda in the Park

I really enjoyed my time in Singapore and can’t wait to return.

What are your favorite sights and sounds of Singapore? What is on your Singapore list? Did I miss something? Did I pick some overrated places?

Michelin Dining – No Really, They Have a Star!

Casual dining in Singapore is truly defined by the Hawker Stall. These Singapore equivalent of a food court in the mall are found throughout the city. You can get everything from grilled meats, noodle dishes, seafood and more. Singapore is also home to two Michelin Starred Hawker Stalls.

These stalls offer the cheapest Michelin starred meals on the planet. Generally, Singapore is a pretty expensive city, but you can easily eat some amazing food for less than $5USD each meal.

Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle

We visited both Michelin Starred Hawker Stalls on my 68 hours on the ground. The first was immediately after the great bike tour. I swung by Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle, in Chinatown. These guys are known for the ubiquitous dish of Chicken and Rice. You are probably thinking how can a simple chicken and rice dish be 1) the national dish of Singapore and 2) earn a Michelin Star. Well, it isn’t because of the service or the ambiance, that’s for sure.

Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle

Exterior of Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle

Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle

Menu at Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle

Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle

Interior of Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle

This place looked like a fast food joint in a mall. I arrived around 13h45 after the lunch rush and still waited in line for 30 minutes. I ordered the Chicken and Rice and a beer. The beer blew the budget as I spent S$10 on this meal.  The dish was perfectly fine. Nicely cooked and mildly seasoned. I was lost as to how this was so highly rated. Then I saw the condiments. Simple sauces and peppers. Adding these to the meal was phenomenal. Loads of flavor, a little spice really kicked up the dish. I loved it.

Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle

Chicken and Rice from Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle

Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle

The second Michelin Starred Restaurant we visited was Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle. It was right near the bike tour shop too. Arriving around 14h00, we didn’t miss the line today. We waited for nearly an hour in the very hot Hawker area. Most of the fans were not working either.

Michelin Starred Hawker Stalls - Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle

Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle – Single Star Michelin Restaurant

Neighboring Hawker Stall of Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle

Most of the neighboring stalls were quiet.

Pork noodle was the famous dish here, so of course that was our selection. We grabbed a beer while we waited in line and another once we had our food. We loaded the dish with all the recommended condiments and paid S$7 per person.

The tables were pretty full, but we lucked out and snagged a four-top the second we had our food in hand.

Neighboring Hawker Stall of Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle

Full tables – everyone enjoying Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle

Kitchen views at Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle

The kitchen hard at work Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle

The pork noodle was just the perfect dish. Spicy, salty and savory flavors made me want to order a second dish, but I couldn’t handle the line.

Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle

Our pork noodle and soup was totally worth the wait.

Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle - Close up

Noodle Close Up – It was delicious!

So, we managed to knock a couple of things off our Singapore must-do list. Enjoying street food and hitting Michelin Rated Restaurant.  Have you visited either of these Michelin Starred Hawker Stalls?  Did you think the food was worth the wait?  What other places would you recommend who want great food, but can’t handle the 30-60+ minute wait for it?