Monday, August 14, 2017

Happy Birthday to Me: Turning the Big 40; Bob Chinn's Crab House, Wheeling, Illinois

I'm officially a middle-aged man.  On August 12, I turned the big 40.  If you've been following my blog, you'll know that I recently became unemployed, got part-time work and am searching for full time employment (or some business idea I can run with).  So how can it be that Pops is going to the Brookfield Zoo, Miller's Ale House, Cirque du Soleil and the Doughnut Vault among others?  The kindness of family and friends.  Today's post is no different.  As a birthday present, Mom treated us to Bob Chinn's for lunch.

A little background on Bob Chinn's Crab House- it is one of the highest grossing independent restaurants in the U.S., always in the top ten each year.  Instead of going the traditional Chinese restaurant route, Bob wisely went into seafood when he opened in 1982.  Like my grandparents, parents and me, Bob can trace his routes to the Toishan region in the Canton province in China, where many of those came over in the Gold Rush, railroad building and pre-World War II immigration.  And in the day, Bob would talk to my grandparents on Mom's side, who owned the Phoenix Inn in Chicago, when we ate at the restaurant.

Bob Chinn's has the freshest and best seafood in the Chicago area hands down.  It is my favorite restaurant in the world, and that's saying a lot, spending over ten years in Tokyo, time in Hong Kong and Orlando.   Everyday there is a new menu for the restaurant, which looks like the one below.
On Saturday, it was a tough choice for me.  I love softshell crabs.  But I wanted to shake things up a bit and was thinking about the crabmeat vermicelli, the lobster roll and the surf and turf.  When the waiter told us that softshell crabs were in season and unlike most places which have frozen crabs, Bob Chinn's had them fresh, I couldn't help but order the crabs.  Wifey picked the onaga fish, which was also a recommendation by the server.  I chose to get my crabs done sauteed instead of tempura, salt-n-pepper or fried.   Wifey chose to get her onaga char-grilled instead of blackened.   Our meal started with Bob's famous butter garlic rolls which are complementary.
Warm, soft and garlicky, yum-oh!!!
To accompany my crabs, I ordered Bob's famous Mai Tai in a souvenir cup.  With this blog being Pop's Chicago Tiki Room, how could I not get the Mai Tai in souvenir cup?
Sweet and strong, great job Bob!!!
My crabs were perfectly cooked, tender, juicy and chock-full of that meaty crustacean flavor.  They were nicely seasoned with just the right amount of salt and spices.  As a side, I chose the fried rice.  The fried rice was really good but not as good as Grandpa's was or Dan-Tei's is (my favorite local Chinese restaurant in the Tokyo area).
If I had an unlimited budget, it would have been four crabs instead of two!!!
Wifey told the server that the onaga was the best fish she's ever had outside of Japan.  That's saying a lot since Japan, especially Tokyo, is known for the freshness and quality of its seafood.  I was able to have a bite and it was tender and flaky, not too salty but flavorful.   
The fish just looks pretty, great presentation Bob!!!
Since it was my birthday, we got dessert.  Bob Chinn's is famous for its dessert selections too.  I picked the key lime pie and wifey chose some chocolate fudge pecan concoction.  Best key lime pie ever.  Not too sweet, not too tart.  You can choose full or smaller portions of pie; we both chose the smaller portions.
Bob makes Floridians proud of their official pie.
Wifey couldn't finish her slice and I ate half of it.  I ended up pie sick from too much pie and nearly fell asleep during my daughter's production of Aladdin afterwards!  This one wasn't overly sweet even if it looks like it would be.

I enthusiastically give Bob Chinn's Crab House six crabs out of five crabs (6 out of 5? That's right!!!).  That's how great I think the restaurant's food is, superb in all facets- quality, preparation and presentation.  I already can't wait to go back for my birthday next year.

We had a small party on the next day and I ate like a piggy there.  Calories don't count on your birthday weekend, right?  I got on the scale today (Monday) and I was 1.2 kg heavier than I was on Friday.  Time to hit the gym.  Thanks for the read!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Reptiles at the Brookfield Zoo; Chicago, Illinois

No posts in over a week.  Got busy with the job search, family birthdays and Cirque du Soleil... As to the job search, I've had three interviews over the past two weeks but nothing has panned out.  It might be that my interviewing skills (or lack of them) are holding me back.  I need to focus on the interview aspect of the search.  I might be too chatty.  Well... I do like to talk as evidenced by this blog and by Twitter.  Anyhoo, on to the blog.

We also had the chance to go to the Brookfield Zoo.  A good buddy of mine all the way back from my externship at a certain Hammond agency gave us tickets to the zoo.  Kudos to him, especially with the whole job situation.
Whether it has been zoo tickets from my "Hammond" friend, BBQ dinners from Mom, kayaking with my Aunt and Uncle, pizza and fried chicken from Sister and Brother-in-law, White Sox tickets from friends, gifts from the in-laws in Japan or coffees with Dad, everyone has contributed to make my girls' summer an extraordinary one.  When I'm on my feet again, I owe lots of beers to all.  And I'll definitely go out of my way to help family and friends in need like I kind of am in now.  Oh I forgot to add that cousin paid for my seven-dollar Nathan's hot dog and Sour Patch kids at Cirque too.  Kindness is great.

As you can probably tell from my blog entries about the Gatormen, I'm a big reptile fan.  Accordingly, my visit to the zoo was focused on seeing the alligators, crocodiles, turtles, snakes and lizards that I love.  Sadly there were no big gators or crocs at the Brookfield Zoo, only smaller breeds like Orinoco Crocodiles.  And those Orinoco Crocs were found in the Swamp, an American-themed exhibit where our friends, the American Alligators should have been living!!!
Nope... No Gators here!!!
But there are Orinoco Crocodiles present!!!
The Swamp did have some nice turtles, and man it really did feel like a swamp in the Swamp; the humidity could be cut with a knife!!!
A nice Mata-mata specimen
King of the turtles, the Alligator Snapper!!!
Here's the difference between Crocs and Gators.

These guys were running all around in the Swamp, perhaps the inhabitants' dinner?
Sweet, sweet Mold-A-Rama... These guys are two bucks now!!!
That's right I'm two dollars now, four times the amount I was in the 1980's!!!
Beyond the Swamp, our scaly friends can be found in the antiquated Reptiles and Birds House and Feathers and Scales House which are nearly adjacent to each other.  Both of these buildings seem to lack air-conditioning and are right out of the 1920's.  However, the reptiles are quite healthy and very actively moving around.
Treasure can be found behind the windows in the Reptiles and Birds House.

Juvenile Galapagos Tortoises

This Green Tree Snake was one of the most active snakes I've ever seen!
I'm not going to tell you what these two Collared Lizards were doing before I snapped the pic.  The look on the face of the right one tells it all.

A beautiful Caiman Lizard
Not sure about this guy, a Chuckwalla?
They also had some cool bigger guys, a tremendously large python that I couldn't see all of and some large monitor lizards.  Those guys were much less active than the small guys.

I later read on the internet that the African jungle exhibit has a few of a smaller breed of Africa crocodiles.  I'll visit there next time.  All and all I was impressed with the selection of reptiles at the Brookfield Zoo.

There's much more than reptiles there of course, so I recommend that you make it out to Brookfield if you live in the Chicago area.  In particular, the primate facility, Tropic World Africa and Asia, as shown below, is impressive (and air-conditioned).
My two-dollar Mold-A-Rama friend says thank you for reading.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Quick Thoughts on New Space Marine Codex: Salamanders Captain Tu-Shan= Return of Vulkan?

Got pulled right back into Warhammer 40K and away from Warmahordes this weekend with the purchase of the new Space Marine codex.  Reading this reminds me how much Games Workshop is top dog in the tabletop wargaming industry.  The vast amount of information and quality of the fluff of the codex can't be beat.  It goes without saying that the Space Marines are GW's bestseller, so naturally the codex is an awesome tome of genetically-engineered super human action.  I mean, who wasn't pulled into Warhammer 40K because of the Space Marines?  And if not, which wargamers still don't own a Space Marine army?

The new codex is 208 pages of space mahreen badassness.  The paper is thick, thick stock and the art is beautiful, even if a lot of it is rehashed from other Warhammer publications. 
After a quick read through here are my initial thoughts on it:
  • It doesn't appear that the mini-marines are going anywhere in the near future as they still occupy the majority of the codex.  
  • The Primaris marines account for seven new units with the Intercessors as Troops, Reivers as Elites, Aggressors as Elites, Redemptor Dreadnoughts as Elites, Inceptors as Fast Attack, Hellblasters as Heavy and Repulsor as a transport.
  • Only the Primaris marines can ride in the Repulsor and other marines cannot ride in it.  That makes no sense at all.
  • The Primaris marines cannot ride in any other transports, i.e., the Land Raiders and Stormravens.  That doesn't make any sense at all either.
  • Gravis armor is a +3 save but wearers get an extra point of toughness when donning it.
  • The Primaris chaplain looks like pimp in his trench coat and with his stick.  All he needs is a feather hat to replace his iron halo-looking rosarius.
  • There's a new cheaper HQ for both Primaris and mini-marines called the Lieutenant.
  • The Tartaros Terminators are the most expensive terminators per terminator point-wise.
  • Tu-Shan is referred to as a Captain... Is that any way connected to Vulkan coming back (read the below)?

  • Power fists and thunderhammers got nerfed a bit by only being a -3 armor modifier instead of AP2 under the previous system.
  • Terminator armor got a bit better in melee by still being able to withstand attacks by power fists and thunderhammers.
  • Salamanders are pretty darn good with their re-rolls chapter trait, +1 to wound rolls with flamers stratagem and +1 strength Warlord trait.

Thanks for the read and For the Emperor!!!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Precious Pearl- As-Seen-On-TV; Pearl Opening, Japan Pavilion Epcot Disney World

Here's one of those reviews with that theme song "one of these things doesn't fit with the others." Actually forget that, the review relates to Disney, one of my all time favorites.  We have to start all the way back to 2015 for this one.  In the summer of 2015, the little ones did that open a live oyster at Epcot's Japan Pavilion in Disney World.  It was a fun experience.  For around 15 bucks or so, you pick a live oyster and a pretty staff member opens it and you keep the pearl inside.  Here's a few pictures of our experience doing it.
Well, sister remembered how much fun we had at Epcot and purchased some pearl oysters for the girls from a company called Precious Pearl, which is here.  Lucky the girls have such a good aunt...  With the job situation, sister, brother-in-law, Mom, Dad and other friends have been really generous to help us have a fun summer.  If any of my buds go through the same situation when I'm on my feet, I'm totally going to step up.  Anyhoo, pictures of our oyster opening:
Like for all cans, watch out for the sharp inner parts around the inside of the opened lid.
Cute heart-shaped packaging to put your new pearl into.
The actual opening is difficult, so wifey had to do it for the little one. You get a little guitar pick-like shovel tool to open the oyster in the box.  
Our pearl looks like "Success" so I better encourage the little one to open that business.  
The pearl in the Precious Pearl oyster out-sized the Disney pearl by a great deal.  However, the fun of opening oysters on vacation in Orlando beats the hell out of opening pearls in sister's apartment regardless if you have donuts from the Doughnut Vault.  But I was actually impressed by the Precious Pearl experience because we got a big pearl out of it.  The cool thing too is that the Precious Pearl includes a necklace so you can immediately wear the pearl (not shown).

So where does this review lead?  I want to go back to Disney World right away lol!!!  Nothing beats hanging out in the World Showcase.  But let's focus on the job first...

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Doughnut Vault; Chicago, River North

Mini-Review!!! Visited sister's River North place downtown and got some gems at the Doughnut Vault.  Brother-in-law and I left the kids with wifey and sis and we took a three-block jaunt to the shop. 

About a block away from the shop, I saw a long line outside and rolled my eyes.  I hate lines, and worse yet, the line consisted of sophisticated city Millennials who definitely would smirk at grown men playing with Warhammer and Star Wars figures...  But upon getting close to them, I heard Blackhawk talk and maybe even Disney Parks talk (which is was what brother-in-law and I were talking about) and felt more at ease.  And it got me thinking that we are all in line because we like fine donuts and dammit, I need to stop making generalizations about people.  Along these lines, there's a lot of "generalization" problems going on right now especially between conservatives and liberals in our great country.  Can't we all just enjoy donuts!!??!!!

Anyhoo, the shop isn't bigger than two large Starbucks tables.  Seriously.  It goes without saying that the donuts are freshly made each day, and we left the shop with this...
Doughnut Vault excels at the small assortment of donuts it has- the Old Fashioned, Gingerbread Stack and the Glazed (and a few daily specials).   The donuts are huge, fluffy and made of pure awesomeness (chestnut-flavored iced donuts are a staple of the menu, yeah!!!).  As a reward for waiting through my rambling, here is what you came for- pictures of the donuts!!!
We chose two chestnut glazed, one vanilla glazed, a chocolate glazed, one old fashioned, half a short stack and two confetti donut holes.  From my comment above, you probably could guess that my favorite was the chestnut glazed.
If you are in the River North area, be sure to drop by for one (or two) of these guys and coffee.  Be prepared to wait though; it is well worth it.  Thank you for the read.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Catachan Jungle Fighters: Arnold & Sly Take on the WH 40K Universe

Along with the 1982 Kenner Toys catalog, I found some more Warhammer 40K miniatures in the recent unpacking of boxes.  I remember acquiring these guys in maybe 2000 or so.  The whole crew looks like members from Arnold's special forces unit from Predator. 

This reminded me that much of the Warhammer 40K lore has its roots in 1980's sci-fi.  Necrons?  Terminator Endoskeletons.  Tyranids?  Aliens.  Space Marines?  Stormtroopers.  Catachan Jungle Fighters?  Rambo and Predator/Commando.  All of these are a much appreciated homage to great sci-fi.  In fact, there is even a Catachan character named Sly Marbo (Sly= Sylvester Stallone and Marbo=Rambo), as shown below.
I think I remember reading something in the fluff about the Deathworld planet, Catachan, having higher gravity than other planets and as a result the Catachans developed a larger amount of muscle mass.  Looking at them now, they look a bit comical.  I mean, these guys are so pumped, I wonder if they can twist around to shoot the Tau or swift Eldar.  And their hands are bigger than their heads!!!  But they still do look bad-ass.  The Catachan below looks like he is flexing with a grenade and the one behind him looks strikingly similar to Arnold from T2. 
Hans and Franz anyone?
Do any of you Warhammer 40K junkies remember the Catachan Jungle Fighter codex?  I used to have it...

More muscles...
And more...
In any event, the Catachans are a little too 80's-early 90's to integrate with my Cadian and Scion Astra Militarum force and I ended up putting them along with Colonel Straken here and here on eBay.  They just don't fit it in for some reason, appearing a bit too cartoony for Pops and Warhammer 40K circa 2017.  I wonder if they'll get retconned out of the fluff like the non-Primaris Space Marines will at one point.  Oh well.  Thanks for the read and have a good evening.

Happy Birthday to Me: Turning the Big 40; Bob Chinn's Crab House, Wheeling, Illinois

I'm officially a middle-aged man.  On August 12, I turned the big 40.  If you've been following my blog, you'll know that I r...