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.

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...