Reminiscing and The Pirates of Penzance

For a long long time when I was in school, being part of the choir was a large part of my life. So much so that I chose a junior college specifically for the quality of its choir. It meant waking up at the crack of dawn to make the long trek to the east side of Singapore. My poor mom did the same, to send me to the bus stop that had a direct bus to school and eventually sending me all the way to the school gates later on in my 2nd year. Thankfully it was not too bad a JC, in fact it was no.1 on the rankings at some point in time, so I guess my parents didn’t mind. Unfortunately, I never had good results while in JC, not that my parents really pressured me to do anyway. For that, I am really grateful for their parenting style.

My choir days were the best memories of my schooling life. And I made the best friends who till today are still very close to my heart. The camaraderie that we built practicing hours upon hours for performances and competitions really made us very tight as a group. Performing groups also get the best deal among all other ECA groups you know? We get to travel for performances and to far off lands no less. We always remember fondly our US trip – of flooded toilets, spooky rooms and a noisy amorous couple in the next door hotel room.

Even after graduation, I continued singing for a year or 2 with the alumni group. One of the more memorable performances we did was the operetta “The Pirates of Penzance” by Gilbert and Sullivan. It’s a comedy musical performance about a guy who was accidentally apprenticed to a bunch of pirates when he was young boy instead of to a pilot as per his parents’ wishes. He also falls in love with a Major General’s daughter who has a bunch of giggly and bimbo sisters. Yes, I played one of the bimbo sisters. lol 😀

Watched a very modern adaptation of the operetta at Northwestern last Saturday. Northwestern has a wonderful theatre program that routinely churns out really awesome performances and at really affordable prices! We only paid $10 per ticket. And the productions are not mediocre at all, very professional. I truly believe many of the students we see performing today will one day make it to become leads in Broadway, as have many in previous years.

Was filled with a sense of nostalgia watching the production and amazingly realized that I had forgotten a lot of the plot already, much less the lyrics of the songs. Utterly impressed with the staging and clever use of space as the theatre was quite tiny. The costumes were simple but yet had elements reflective of the victorian times that the story is set in. Reminded me so much of the grief I experienced hunting for costumes on a super tight budget when I was assistant wardrobe mistress during my time. We should have just made it more interpretive rather than making it too exacting. It’s a comedy after all, so some fun and surprising elements make it more interesting.

I also liked that some of the roles were switched up. Like how they replaced a middle aged woman character (Ruth) with a guy in drag, super funny. The bumbling policemen in the original were also switched to a girl scout troop, who IMHO sang the best among the ensemble. Another clear difference between the production I was in and this one was the level of talent in acting. We were obviously more comfortable as singers but the NU cast had both the acting chops and voices. They also had better direction and choreography, while we obviously were a bit more amateurish doing what we used to joke among ourselves as 骗钱 (literally cheat money) choreography as dreamt up by our choir conductor in the past. But you know, we did it for fun while these guys are working towards doing it as a living some day! Nevertheless, am sure anyone who loves performing will agree that it is always always a fun and satisfying journey.

Photos credited to Northwestern School of Communications and Northwestern University Theatre and Interpretation Centre

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Wings and Basketball

Thought to record this for memory sake since it was such a fun night.

The NBA finals were going on last Sunday and the husband impromptu-ly decided we should go watch it together in a sport bar. It would mean eating at my favorite Buffalo Wings place and not having to cook dinner that night. Of course I said yes!!! And though we both don’t usually keep up with NBA basketball, the finals are pretty fun to watch. Go Spurs!

The wings weren’t so tasty this night somehow. Perhaps the kitchen was distracted by the game. The servers sure were less attentive this day too. Tried a new wasabi sauce and it was really good! Too bad it was a limited edition, so probably won’t get to eat it again in future.

Best part of the night was having my ID checked for the cocktail I ordered. Haha. Never thought it would ever happen to me again at this age.

My 35th at RPM Italian

If it seems like I am celebrating alot of events lately, I am! The period between December and April is always very exciting for the whole family. All our birthdays (including Rusty’s!) are bunched up during this time. Not forgetting Christmas and CNY in the same period, so lots of fun outings and rich food. eeps.

I decide my own birthday celebrations as I always do. heh. I can be fussy about food and fickle, so the husband has given up trying to surprise me. He does the best thing just by saying yes and coming along. He laughs about how our marriage is more efficient and happy this way, and I agree!

RPM Italian in downtown Chicago was my choice this year. To be very honest, I’m actually a closet reality show fan. heehee. And one of my favourite is Giuliana and Bill which I ironically cannot watch in the US because I have no cable! I just love the chemistry between this two and how they have weathered through life’s challenges (infertility and cancer) with great spirit. I also find them pretty hilarious. They own RPM Italian and it was featured quite heavily in their show. Not sure if everyone is a fangirl like me but the restaurant is super popular and we could not get a reservation any later than 4.30pm!

We were all prepared to try some Italian craft beers but were pleasantly surprised when our our server presented us with 2 glasses of prosecco to start our great evening.

We ordered 3 small plates to share, a Burrata, a Kale and Spinach salad and a Fritto Misto. The star of the 3 was the Fritto Misto, an assortment of seafood fried in a very light batter which reminded us very much of a very delicate tempura. Everything was super fresh and I really enjoyed the crab claw that was in the dish.

Our mains of a Seafood Risotto and Pomodoro Bucatini were very enjoyable. The server had also suggested that I add some meatballs for the pasta but it turned out only ok for me. But the Bucatini which was made fresh had a very good bite and texture. It was my favourite dish of the night. Simple looking but very flavourful. The husband didn’t enjoy his risotto as much as it was too buttery and creamy for him but I thought it was fine.

The night ended with a surprise birthday dessert of raspberry sherbet and coffee gelato on baby cones. We had ordered 2 other desserts but had to send the Chocolate Budino (like a pudding) to pack to go because we were just too full. We did eat the Rosemary gelato that was highly recommended by our server and it was divine. It sounds odd but the flavours of the rosemary, milk, olive oil and sprinkle of salt really came together in this dessert. It’s not on their permanent menu so I wonder when I will ever eat it again because I really miss it now.

The celebration surprises from the restaurant didn’t end there because we ended up with an additional 20% discount on our bill. We were already quite blown away by the special touches that they added for us through the night, so we just returned the discount via a good tip to our very attentive and nice server.

All in all a very good and unforgettable meal, very worth eating at the odd time of 4.30pm. This place is truly very popular as it was buzzing and running at full house by the time we left at 6.30pm. And I know that it’s not because that the rest of the customers are fangirls or fanboys like me.

RPM Italian

52 W Illinois Street, Chicago

Found Kitchen and Social House

So right after I did up the post on yucky Asian food, I ended up at a gorgeous and yummy restaurant for dinner that very night. I found Found after shopping at our neighbourhood Whole Foods the other day and added it on my “want to try one day” list.

We walked into a candle lit restaurant with eclectic furniture and red brick walls. It was a warm and comfortable space which felt like walking through someone’s sexy home. I really loved the decor there but unfortunately couldn’t capture it well with the iPhone.

Found’s philosophy is to serve food grown or made locally, so the menu evolves over time. They believe in recycling and repurposing “found” objects. Much of the furniture is salvaged from somewhere. The restaurant also helps the community by providing jobs to those coming out of homelessness.

The menu is quite extensive but has a heavier emphasis on small plates more suited for sharing. We were pretty greedy and ordered 4 dishes that night. Kale has become my favourite vegetable since moving to the US and the salad we had with nuts and pear was refreshing and a great appetiser to kick off the meal. The second dish was a roasted corn with okra, peppers and smothered with harissa, a middle eastern hot sauce which reminded me of sambal and curry combined. We also had a very juicy and flavourful steak.

My favourite of the night was the twice fried chicken wings coated in a sticky sweet glaze with a hint of lime bitters. I think because it was twice fried, the marinade was very much infused into the meat. I found it amusing that we were given hot towels with a lime wedge with the wings to clean our fingers. It’s like an American version of the tea-lemon finger bowls we get when we eat seafood back home.

We had to dapao home some of the wings and steak but it was still yummy for lunch the next day. This is going on my “will be back” list.

Found Kitchen and Social House
1631 Chicago Ave
Evanston, IL 60201

Oh my Omakase!

The start of the year is kinda a crazy time for celebrations. Between the Chinese New year obligations, we also celebrated several other occasions – my dad’s birthday, Rusty’s birthday, our wedding anniversary, my birthday and my mom’s birthday! My brother’s birthday and the husband’s are also upcoming in March and April respectively. Meaning, it is also season where a hole starts to grow in the pocket.

I kinda made the hole even bigger this year by requesting for an Omakase meal for my birthday. Our original plan was to head to Hinoki at China Square Central but we just couldn’t get through their phone line to check if they were open during the CNY period. So even though it was the more expensive option, Tatsuya it was for us and since the husband was more than willing to treat, why should I say no? =)

We sat at the counter and had great fun waiting for each course to be presented. We also kaypohed around to see what others were having. It was a good dinner overall. I didn’t dare look at the bill but suspect that it was in excess of $500 for both of us that night.

It’s kinda crazy when you think about it as I have never ever spent so much on a meal before. I wish I could say that it was worth it but i’m not too sure. Somehow, I enjoyed myself much more previously at Kome (previous incarnation of Hinoki) as the chefs were a lot more friendly and creative. I remembered oohing and ahhing a lot before but didn’t do that this round. What marred the experience somewhat was when we had a senior waitress scolding a junior one within earshot about how this was a high end restaurant and she shouldn’t be spilling stuff blah blah blah… Errr… I thought if this was a high end place, you shouldn’t even be scolding your staff in full view of customers! And the restaurant was mighty tiny to begin with.

Will probably just stick with the dependable lunch sets here in future. Can’t afford this all the time lol