Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’

“You’re going to be there for the Royal Wedding!” – The average female response when I announced my move to London.

Just when you thought all of the Royal Wedding news and nonsense was over, here’s a firsthand look at my immersion into all things Will and Kate and live in London leading up to the Royal Wedding. My apologies if you’re exhausted from nonstop William and Kate news. I’m in the same boat as you but this was an exciting time for me and my first opportunity to be a “foreign correspondent.”

Becoming a Royal Wedding Commentator

A few days after arriving in London, I received a Facebook message from a TV producer and friend in Chicago asking if I could chat about the Royal Wedding excitement during a few morning broadcasts.  To say I jumped at the opportunity is an understatement. Being a “foreign correspondent” or “man on the ground” for one of the world’s largest weddings is exactly the type of opportunity and challenge that interests me.

I called into the station twice and only chatted for a combined total of 2-3 minutes but love it. To prepare for the phone conversations I spent hours immersing myself in everything related to the Royal Wedding. While newspaper articles, gossip columns, BBC, and royal family’s Twitter handle were all helpful, the best insight and experiences came from walking the parade route and touring Westminster Abbey.

Searching for the Subtle Changes

During my five to six “fact finding missions” along the parade route, some of the best changes were subtle – like the discrete TV cameras installed at Westminster Abbey to show Kate Middleton’s walk down the aisle and watching the flowers outside Buckingham Palace changing from yellow to red. These changes were my favorite because unless you kept your eyes open, you missed them.

Cameras were mounted on pillars in Westminster Abbey to capture Kate Middleton’s walk down the aisle. Technically, you aren’t allowed to take photographs inside the abbey but if you don’t use your flash and pretend to be praying, no one will say anything to you.

On each side of Westminster Abbey’s entrance is a fake building that hid TV cameras. The large rectangles in each side of the temporary buildings were removable panels.

The Metropolitan Police, MI5 (the UK equivalent to Homeland Security), and the military played an important role on the wedding day but unknown to most is the presence they played leading up to the wedding. I chatted with a few officers during one of my walks and learned that the week of the wedding the parade route and neighboring parks were under 24 hour surveillance and the Royal Guards practiced drills along the parade route in the dead of night.

Changes With a “Wow” Factor

None of the changes were so monumental that they completely blew me away. Most of them were actually expected – a Union Jack on every corner, an over abundance of international media, people willing to camp out for days just to catch a glimpse of William and Kate as they leave Westminster Abbey. But it was tough to see some of them and not be astounded.

Four days before the wedding, Monday, the first camper arrived outside Westminster Abbey and he was a character. This clearly wasn’t his first camp out because upon arrival he walked up to the first Press Association photographer he saw and declared himself as the first camper. Decked head to toe in Union Jack items, this guy was all over the place and he reminded me of Joe Pesci in Lethal Weapon 3.

Lining the parade route were thousands upon thousands of fences. In order to get everything set up on time, flatbed semi-trucks and fork lifts were a frequent sight along the parade route.

To capture every second of the Royal Wedding craziness, the international media set up studios on roof tops, in parks, and across from Buckingham Palace. The left half of this picture is a three story broadcast studio, featuring 33 individual studios, across from Buckingham Palace. The right half is a two story broadcast platform across from Westminster Abbey. Both were built specifically for the wedding.  (Note: Having a blog did not grant you access to the media center across from Buckingham Palace.)

My Broadcast Debut (Please keep your laughter to yourself.)

Monday, April 25th – 4 Days Before the Wedding

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Thursday, April 28th – 1 Day Before the Royal Wedding

Many thanks to everyone that “Liked” these videos on Facebook, commented, or sent me a note. I really appreciate the support.

For the sake of everyone’s sanity, I broke my original post into two parts. Thanks for sticking with me and check back tomorrow for a “commoner’s perspetive” of the wedding day. (Teaser: I was along the parade route.)

Cheers,

Joe

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My favorite thing about living in Chicago is a food. Not the Chicago style hot dogs and deep dish pizza the city is known for, I’m referring to the array of options available at a moment’s notice.

For a brief time last year, I developed a crush on a “foodie” and I started to take an interest in the city’s restaurant scene so we would have more to discuss. Time Out Chicago, Chicago Magazine and metromix Chicago instantly became my guides to dinning.

The restaurant reviews couldn’t come fast enough and chatting with friends about places to try or what might be the next big trend became one of my favorite topics on conversation. So much that a co-worker started referring to me as “The Concierge.”

My reading quickly transitioned from being about the girl to being about my passion for new experiences. In the May 2009 issue of Chicago Magazine, the magazine ‘s deputy dining editor and humor columnist Jeff Ruby wrote about his transition from loving the taco salad at Chi-Chi’s to becoming a food critic. This article inspired me to start finding new opportunities to develop my palate and think more like Tom Colicchio and the other judges on Top Chef.

Recently, I had an opportunity to be a food critic and it was more challenging than I expected. Sunda, one of the best Asian restaurants in Chicago, invented 20 of their social media supporters, including myself, to review their current menu and test several new dishes during a private brunch.

Sunda is know for it’s ability to wow diners with contemporary interpretations of traditional Southeast Asian dishes and it did just that. The dishes are shared in a family style setting and after tasting 13 different options, everyone in our group left satisfied by both the food and the experience.

Spinach and Mushroom Egg White Omelet

Some dishes were an instant hit like the spinach and mushroom omelet above, while others need a few more tweaks before we can declare it a grand slam. The toughest thing for me was knowing exactly what flavors I should be tasting. I can easily tell you whether or not I like a dish but recognizing the hidden flavors requires more attention than I initially thought.

Brown Rice Chirashi

With the help of my fellow diners – Chris, Brenda, Tatiana, Mary Kay and Jeanelle – and Sunda’s general manager Aeron Lancero, I was able to identify the favors popping in my mouth. In addition to the flavors that delighted our taste buds, the presentation was superb. The chirashi, pictured above, is a new dish we tested and my picture doesn’t do it justice. According to my limited Google research, chirashi means scattered sushi, which explains why the fish is scattered throughout the bowl. For guests looking to take a break from egg based breakfast foods,  this dish is the way to go.

Spam Musubi and Ramen

The title of “Most Unique Dish” belongs to the Spam Musubi and Ramen. The Spam Musubi is a popular Hawaiian dish similar to sushi, except it’s larger and made with Spam. With so many other dishes on the menu, I can’t say I’ll have this again but it was worth trying once.

Aeron and me.

Aeron was an especially gracious and knowledgeable host. Throughout the meal he made sure we had everything we needed and found a balance between providing helpful information and not looking over our shoulders while we discussed the dishes. I hope to have more experiences with Aeron in the future.

The restaurant scene in Chicago a constantly evolving. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the changing store fronts and fall into a pattern of visiting the same place over and over. But with restaurants like Sunda re-evaluating and tweaking their menu on a constant basis, Chicago’s culinary scene will continue to thrive.

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If you could try any job for a day, what would it be?