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3 holidays history and a gingerbread

Dr. Ruben Boyajian is surgeon from Effingham, Illinois, renowned for his medical skill the world over……and also renowned for being an artisan in gingerbread. Every holiday season, Ruben creates a large scale, intricately detailed model of a local attraction and offers it up to the community to enjoy.

Having had his creations recognized in several nationally published magazines and articles, this year Ruben chose to model the Wright Home in nearby Altamont Illinois. The Wright home is one of only two pieces of architecture in Effingham County that reside on the National Register of Historic Places.

The model, which measures almost three feet across, is complete with ‘local villagers’ enjoying a brisk winters eve on the lawn and one can see through the open front door Santa’s elves busy with their holiday celebration.

The real Wright home is elaborately decorated in intricate detail with wrought iron railings, cornices and fascias, and the gingerbread version leaves nothing to be desired. Even the wrought iron is recreated, with icing, of course.

The Gingerbread creation will be on display throughout the holiday season at the Effingham Visitors Center, just south of Interstate 57/70 exit 160 in Effingham. Stop by and enjoy this wonderful piece of holiday artwork!

-Ed Baumgarten


4 a dose of yummy

Got “Dosed” yet?  Chicago’s monthly Dose Market is a true find for tastemakers of both fashion and food.   This blog is my first and I chose to cover my Food Adventure: 001 as I enjoyed myself surrounded by food, chefs, farmers and fashion at the Dose Market.  This list exemplifies what I think Flight Chicago is all about and a taste of what is to come in our blog.  It’s all foodimentary.

The Dose Market happens on a monthly basis on Sundays at the River East Art Center in downtown Chicago.  This space is often used for weddings and formal events, but for Dose Market it turned into a frenzy of visitors, each eager to see the latest fashions.  In my case, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some amazingly tasty items. 

While I enjoyed strolling past all the vintage clothing and jewelry vendors, I found myself naturally veering toward the food.  #1 on the list was The Doughnut Vault, where I chose the “Dreamsicle” flavor, even though they are best known for their “Maple Bacon” doughnuts.  The line here was considerably shorter than the one circling half a city block at their store.  Score!

Next up was Zingerman’s Creamery  where I was able to taste prior to purchasing some of their fresh goat and cow cheeses they drove down from Ann Arbor, MI that morning.  I chose a thyme rolled “city goat” cheese, “sharon hollow” a blended soft cow cheese and a “manchester”.

Turning the corner, I had to say “Howdy” to the guy in the cowboy hat, Dave Rand fromQ7 Ranch. He was freezer stocked, but quickly running out.  I listened as he described his Marengo, IL ranch, the grass fed beef he was touting and the bio, no antibiotic practices he is so proud of.  Sustainable and locally produced is very important for Flight Chicago as well as many of the chefs we work with.  As an added connection, Dave teaches about sustainability at Kendall College, where I work as Director of Dining and Event Services.  His steaks will taste nice in the upcoming days.

Walking over to Rare Tea Cellar, I discovered flavor pearls.  OMG what a great idea.  Christine Le Tennier uses a seaweed extract to create these little pearls of yumminess.  Had to purchase the balsamic vinegar and the rose ones.  Cannot wait to try out as ‘caviar’ for a mozzarella tomato salad and float in my bubbly this coming NYE, respectively.  Then Rodick Markus told me that RTC is the largest provider of truffles in the state of Illinois.  Well, anyone who knows me knows that I STOP for anything and everything TRUFFLE.  You have a friend in me!

If you visit Dose Market, you have to get there early to get some of the good stuff.  For example, Old Town Social ran out of their house made sopressata for sale by the time I got there, but still offered tasting samples as well as summer sausage.  Crumb Chicago sold out of their boules by the time I got there, so I bought some of their savory “Fennel Taralli,” an Italian type of cracker.

my Dose Market finds

I finished our “DoseDay” with a hot cup of  cider to go from Seedling Orchards.  It matched the cool fall weather I exited into, to enjoy the rest of what the weekend had to offer. 

by Monika Lotter

5 lights action christmas

It’s that time of year again with the holiday lights all aglow.  Ok I promise not to break out in song.  Good thing this is a blog! 

I wanted to share with you a few festivals of lights events taking place in Illinois.  Here is a picture of my Christmas lights last night.  Talk about holiday fa la la spirit, it puts you right in the mood.   

Winter Wonderfest at Navy Pier

Winter Wonderfest at Navy Pier in Chicago
Open Dec. 2nd – Jan. 8th, 2011

Enjoy more time to have more fun inside an enchanted 170,000 square foot winter playground! Bring the entire family for days of entertainment, Chicago Blackhawks indoor ice skating, huge inflatable slides, rides, and so much more. http://www.winterwonderfest.com/

 Folepi’s Winter Wonderland in East Peoria
Open Dec. 2-31, 2011; Christmas Eve – Christmas Night – Open!

The almost 2-mile drive-through electric park is the Festival of Lights’ signature event! Folepi’s Winter Wonderland features the majority of the Parade of Lights floats and many other lighted displays. http://www.cityofeastpeoria.com/index.cfm?pageid=75

2011 Annual Holiday Lights Spectacular in Aurora
Open Nov. 25 – Dec. 26, 2011

One of the largest outdoor holiday light displays of Santa, reindeer, candy canes, Old Man Winter, hundreds of lighted trees and more – will delight carloads of families from Nov. 25-Dec. 26 at Phillips Park, 615 S. Smith Blvd., Aurora. www.aurorafestivaloflights.com

 Snow Globe & The Parade of Lights in Champaign
Open Dec. 3 – Dec. 22, 2011

Ice Fishing

Join the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum at our annual Snow Globe Saturdays on Dec. 3rd, 10th and 17th from 2 to 5 p.m. Families can spend an enchanted time in a winter wonderland inside the Orpheum Theater’s snow globe that features indoor sledding, snow ball throwing and ice fishing.  http://visitchampaigncounty.org/calendar/date/snow-globe-parade-lights

Please share your photos of festival of lights with us.    

Hope your holidays are sparkly bright.



Here is a list of the restaurants I visited and sampled.

Wicker Park Flight

Q & A time with Chef John Manion, formerly of Branch 27. He is opening 2 new restaurants this year.

Frontier – Chef Brian Jupiter
Raw & Char – grilled oysters
Blackberry BBQ Rabbit
Grilled Redfish (very flavorful)

The Bedford – Chef Mark Steuer
Deviled Eggs (powdered bacon a twist on an old favorite)
Smoked Trout

Prasino – Chef Scott Halverson
Ahi Tuna Tartar with wasabi caviar (wasabi caviar was an unexpected surprise)
Beet Salad
Grilled Thai Curry Pork Loin

I can’t say one was better than the other, because they were all different. That is the great thing about Flight Chicago; it’s like hitting the mix button on your IPOD. You can choose from different Flights in various neighborhoods. For more details click http://flightdeckchicago.comI am happy to announce the creators of Flight Chicago will be blogging for us on various eateries around Illinois. Please check in with us to read about Monika & Amber’s eating experience around Illinois.

Meet our new authors:

Amber Tillett & Monika Lotter – Chicago

When we decided to launch Flight Chicago, a backstage-pass tour of Chicago’s hottest restaurants, we went from casual food lovers to professionals.  With yin and yang backgrounds and viewpoints, we like to think of ourselves as one whole enchilada.  Monika was born and raised in Chicago, Amber came here from North Carolina.  Together, we’re able to look at the Illinois food culture as both a native and a visitor.  We love dressing up to hit the glittery new downtown spots, but also get a thrill biking to remote mofongo stands in way-west Humboldt Park.  We’re all over the place, and we can’t wait to take you with us.

Ciao –

7 starved rock celebrating

View from Lovers Leap

I hope you’re enjoying the great fall weather we are having in northern Illinois.  If you’re like me, you’re trying to spend as much time outdoors before the winter.  As a true Illinoisan we grab onto the beautiful sunshiny days like it was our last.  May I suggest taking a scenic drive and check out Starved Rock State Park in Utica, IL.

Take a moment to explore the splendor of nature, and unplug. I remember going there has a child and biking while my Dad fished.  There was a mini hill near the dam, my brother and I used to race down on our bikes.  Recently I visited the hill and laughed how small it is from what I remembered.  I enjoy

LaSalle Canyon

watching my kids riding down the same hill on their bikes now.   So don’t forget your bikes!

I have always wondered how the Park got its name.  So with a little research here is a brief description.  French explorers built Fort St. Louis at Starved Rock in the winter of 1682-83 to take advantage of rock formations strategic position.  According to legend, in the 1760s a group of Illiniwek warriors were trapped on top of the 125-foot sandstone bluff by opposing Potawatomi and Ottawa fighters. Surrounded and unable to flee, the Illiniwek starved to death, giving rise to the park’s name. The bluff was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1960. Governor Quinn recently celebrated the 100th Anniversary of Starved Rock State Park in Utica, IL. It’s one of the most visited state parks in Illinois. It is home to 18 canons formed by glacial melt water and stream erosion with over 2,800 acres to explore along the Illinois River.

Ottawa Canyon

I encourage everyone to see these spectacular rock formations in person. I hope you can take drive in the next few weeks although winter is ideal time too for bald eagle watching.  The adjacent Plum Island Eagle Sanctuary provides an ideal roosting habitat for bald eagles, I digress (I will save that for another post).

Ciao –