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Tim Foolery

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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A Night In Vienna

The return home from my 68 Hours in Singapore afforded me the luxury of a night in Vienna.  While I could have found an alternate route home, it would have cost more miles and eaten into my time in Singapore (or added a day to this trip). I love Vienna.  This Vienna layover was short.  I had 15 hours from the time the door on my inbound flight opened until my outbound door closed.

What would I do with this time?  I had a a beautiful suite at the Hotel Bristol, so just relaxing in luxury was an option.  There were no shows at the stunning Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera), so that was out.  I wasn’t in the mood for fine dining experience (shocker, I know!), so what is a guy to do?

The Wiener Staatsoper / Vienna State Opera House.

The Wiener Staatsoper / Vienna State Opera House.

The hotel recommended that I hop on a street car and head out to a huge park on the edge of the City. That’s where the Viennese go when it is hot (and it was 33C when I landed at 19h00).  Splendid idea.  The street car took about 25 minutes to reach the end of the line.  The park was beautiful, very natural, with trails in various levels of manicure which led to a large lake. When I arrived it was getting dark, so not many people were left hanging out.  I spent about 45 minutes walking around, enjoying nature in a fabulous city.  It was starting to get dark and I was afraid I’d get trapped out here in the pitch black – there were NO LIGHTS in this park.

Vienna Erholungsgebiet Wienerberg

Sunset from the Erholungsgebiet Wienerberg

Vienna Nature Preserve

The verdant nature preserve offered a cooling refresh from the heat of Vienna

Heading back on the street car, I rode past my stop up to the Rathausplatz – City Hall Plaza. I figured I’d just walk around and make my way back to my hotel.  What do I hear, once I’m off the Street Car? Music. Laughter. A crowd.  Was this, what Chicagoans call, a Street Fest?

Rathausplatz Vienna

The entrance to the festival – Big Crowd for a Sunday night.

It was! But it wasn’t like a normal Street Fest.  This Platz was not only lined with food and booze vendors, but there was a large screen strung up in front of the Rathaus.  Surrounding the screen was bleachers.  On the screen: A 2002 production of Swan Lake. Yes, a 16 year old recording of the ballet had drawn several thousand Viennese out at 22h00 on a Sunday night. The Platz was electric.

Rathausplatz Vienna

Such a crowd for a Sunday night!

I’m not a huge ballet fan, but I do love warm weather, beer and dining al fresco.  I grabbed a lager, walked around the crowd, yes, even watched part I’d the production.

The most fascinating food booth called to me.  Wienerschnitzel. Made fresh while you watched.  This culinary assembly line kept the crowd as enthralled as the ballet.  It had been about 4 hours since I had the prelanding meal on Austrian, plus the beer, I was famished.

The Wienerschnitzel and Potatoes were amazingly perfect.  Usually I think if this as a cold weather dish, it paired perfectly with the heat, the beer and the fresh air.

Wienerschnitzel or Wiener schnitzel

Wienerschnitzel and Beer!

I had no plans for my time in Vienna, but stumbled upon this absolutely perfect evening.  Music, dancing, food and drink.  Who could ask for anything more?  Have you ever come across a surprisingly great event like this before?  What would you have done with your handful of hours in Vienna?  Would you have relaxed in the beautiful suite or would you have gone out to explore?

Hotel Bristol: A Luxury Collection Property

After flying all day from Singapore, I found myself in Vienna at 18h30. I had booked myself a room on points at the Hotel Bristol right across from the Opera House. This is the only hotel I’ve stayed in while visiting Vienna. I love it. I even used Suite Night upgrades which cleared a week in advance. These upgrades moved me to an Opera Suite. I’ve been fortunate enough to ONLY stay in the beautiful Opera Suites at the Hotel Bristol.

I arrived straight away from the airport at 19h00, timing on transfers were perfect. Upon check in, the man working reception attempted to down grade me to a normal room because “you are just one person here for one night, you dont need this much space, it is too hot.” He was accurate, it was very hot in Vienna (33C), but I didn’t follow, nor like his logic. After a bit of discussion, he allowed me to stay in my original room.

Opera Suite

This time, my suite was on the third floor, with the same stunning view of the Wienner Staatsoper (Vienna Opera House).

Bristol Hotel Vienna - Opera House

The summer view from my Opera Suite at the Bristol Hotel Vienna

The room was quite warm and being in the room for less than 5 minutes a knock came at the door. It was hotel maintenance. He came to check on the air conditioning. Evidently these large suites don’t cool down as efficiently. He was here to make sure certain doors and windows were closed to ensure the bedroom area was as chilled as possible.

Ah…so that’s what the guy at reception was trying to say…

Bristol Hotel Vienna

Main seating area – a Formal Affair

Bristol Hotel Vienna

Seating and chandelier in the main room

Bristol Hotel Vienna Coffee Service

Coffee Service for a Coffee City

Bristol Hotel Vienna

The romantic fireplace in the Opera Suite

I didn’t spend much time in the room, since I had a flight home before 10h00 the next morning. Plus, I wanted to explore Vienna in the summer.

I slept well, albeit not very long. The hotel is really wonderful. The rooms are so perfectly appointed and the service is always on point. Plus, the views cant be beat!

Bristol Hotel Vienna - Master Bedroom

The Main Bedroom – Luxurious

Bristol Hotel Vienna

The perfectly appointed bedroom in the Opera Suite

Bristol Hotel Vienna

Twin Vanities in the Master Bath

Bristol Hotel Vienna

The large soaking tub

Bristol Hotel Vienna

The separate shower was a bit small, but still quite luxurious.

Bristol Hotel Vienna

Le Chemin Bath Products

Bristol Hotel Vienna

Small Guest Bath in the Opera Suite

Bristol Hotel Vienna

Small Guest Bath in the Opera Suite

Bristol Hotel Vienna

A second bathroom is a lovely luxury in a hotel.

Have you had the opportunity to stay at the Hotel Bristol? How are the standard rooms? What is your favorite hotel in Vienna?

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Vienna

I mentioned about some excitement on the way to Vienna from Bangkok recently.  I was flying home from spending 68 Hours in Singapore.  My return flight started in Singapore and I connected in Bangkok and Vienna before landing in Chicago.  The longest leg was from Bangkok to Vienna, which I flew Austrian Airlines Business Class.

fun·ny -/ˈfənē/
1. causing laughter or amusement; humorous
2. difficult to explain or understand; strange
So this story uses the second definition of funny of course.

Doctor on Board?

About half way through the flight, the cabin was dark, I was napping.  A flight attendant nudges me and says: “Entschuldigung, sind Sie Arzt?”  My college German classes didn’t fail me.  I knew she asked if I was a doctor.  I answered and she thanked me and moved on to the next passenger.  Everyone asked for more details, but she wouldn’t say any.
I was awake now, I decided to go to the washroom.  As I came out, I heard the pilot speaking with a flight attendant.  He mentioned their plan to land in Delhi, India, but the ill woman wouldn’t be allowed in India.  We need to find another airport.
Austrian Airlines Business Class Seat
I don’t know why we couldn’t land in India.  Would the woman be restricted from landing because of her nationality?  Who is restricted from visiting India?  Was her illness restricting her from landing?

If not India, where?

I sat back in my seat and saw that our flight path had changed. We were staying on a southern trajectory, straight toward Delhi.  I wanted another glass of wine at this point, so I headed back to the galley.  This time, the pilot and flight attendant were looking at a print out of the manifest.  They then said, as she was filling my wine glass, that the second airport wouldn’t work either.  The plan was to land in Tehran, but one passenger wouldn’t be allowed.  That one passenger was likely me, as I travel on a US passport.  The pilots mentioned that the crew would time out while on the ground and there weren’t any replacement pilots available until the next day.
This was a bit concerning to me.  Firstly, because if this woman needed medical attention, we need to get on the ground.  Secondly because I sure didn’t want to run into issues in Iran.
I return to my seat, with my very full glass of wine.  The passenger across the aisle from me, rings the flight attendant call button and tells them he’s a veterinarian.  He heads back to lend a hand.  After 10 minute he returns to his seat and tells us (we were all staring at him, looking for an update) that she’ll be fine and we can land in Vienna.  He then said that “people are just big animals” and let out a booming laugh.

Vienna it is

So we continued on to Vienna without another word about the ill passenger, until we landed.  An ambulance met us and took the passenger off.   Nothing else was mentioned about this.  Have you ever had a medical emergency while en route?  What about restricting landings in a medical emergency for diplomatic / passport issues?
I’m happy that this woman was healthy enough to make it to Vienna.  People were very curious as to what was happening, but they also respected her privacy and didn’t hover over her.
Have you ever had an emergency landing in a country where you weren’t welcomed?  Did you get off the plane? How was this situation handled?

Cell Phone Etiquette: Happier Podcast Critique

I’ve talked about ways I keep myself entertained while traveling before. Movies, TV shows and podcasts are my number one time killer while traveling. One of my favorite podcasts is Happier by self-described Happiness Bully Gretchen Rubin. Her weekly podcasts, which she co-host with her sister, Elizabeth Craft, give pointers on how to be happier.

Cell Phone Etiquette

This week, Gretchen and Liz tackled the topic of cell phone etiquette and how some people would interpret your actions as being rude, while others would think nothing of it. Gretchen posed a handful of questions to her sister on this topic – some I agreed with completely, while others I felt were just plain wrong. Here’s how it played out, with my commentery:


Gretchen: When you run into a friend while out and about, can you leave your ear buds in while you talk to them, even if your music/pod is turned off?

Liz: Take out one ear bud.

Tim’s Response: Couldn’t agree more. Show that you are engaged and not distracted.


Gretchen: Related question, at the store, when I am checking out. Can I leave my ear buds in. I’m of asking for help, the cashier is ringing up my items.

Liz: It is permissible to leave the ear buds in, if you give the cashier a nice smile.

Tim’s Response: No way. Just like before, turn off your entertainment, take our one ear bud and complete the transaction. These are people helping you. I don’t want small talk in this situation, but online it completely rude to shut off from people in the service industry. Plus, if the cashier has a question, they will likely have the repeat it once or twice all because you were too important to pause your distraction.


Gretchen: You are out walking your dog. Your dog and another start sniffing each other. Do you have to take the ear buds out and talk to the other dog owner?

Liz: Not if they don’t want to engage in a conversation.

Tim’s Response: If they want to engage, why must you? I don’t have a dog, but everyone in my neighborhood makes small talk while the dogs sniff around. Again, we are living on top of each other, we need to be a little more polite to each other. A couple minutes of idle, boring chatter isn’t going to kill you.


Gretchen: At dinner and the conversation drives you to a point where you want to look something up. Example: We love Shrek….wait, what year did that come out? Look it up.

Liz: 100% permissible as it is continuing the shared conversation. If you are checking your social media feeds, no, don’t donit.

Tim’s Response: Do it. Agreed. Be present in the conversation, don’t check out.


Gretchen: When someone shows you a picture on their phone, do you swipe to look at the other photos? I do it and it is rude.

Liz: It is rude. I’ve never done that.

Tim’s Response: Agreed, unless they preemptively give you permission. I accidently swiped too far and saw some very personal photos. Whoops!


Gretchen: When having a real world conversation and your phone rings or a notification buzzes. Do you check it or wait until the conversation is over?

Liz: I live in LA and we all accept that everyone just looks at their notification. It isn’t rude.

Tim’s Response: This one is tough for me. I say if the phone rings (which happens so rarely for me), see who it is. Notifications are different. Wait until the polite conversation is over and then check. If you are expecting an important call or message, let your friend know that you need to check something if/when it comes in.


Gretchen: If you are on a train, for example, your phone rings. Do you answer your phone? Do you answer and say “Hi, I’m on the train, what’s going on?” This gives the caller notice that you can’t fully talk, and acknowledges that you know you can’t really talk, so your fellow passengers aren’t angry.

Liz: Yes. That is fine.

Tim’s Response: Agreed. Unless you are in the quiet car. Then don’t answer. Also, depending on the train ride length, call them back once you are off the train. I have a quick SMS setup so when someone calls, I can shut the call down by texting them “I’m on the train. Will call you back when I’m off.” This works wonders for me.


Now some of the responses were indeed a bit more in-depth than the summary I’ve provided. Go listen to the pod to get the full picture. What do you think? Do you agree with their thought? Am I completely off base here? How would you respond?