The Palmer House gives guests a glimpse into historic Chicago

By Elizabeth Czapski | Staff Writer

Published September 4, 2018

One of the oldest hotels in America sits right outside of New Eastside, at 17 E. Monroe St.

The historic Palmer House | Photo by Elizabeth Czapski

The Palmer House Hilton was intended as a wedding gift from Potter Palmer, an innovative businessman and the hotel’s namesake, to his new, much younger wife, Bertha, an educated socialite who was a champion for women and the arts.

The hotel first opened in 1871, but was destroyed by the Great Chicago Fire just two weeks later. It was rebuilt across the street, re-opening in 1873, according to the Palmer House’s director of publicity and resident historian Ken Price.

Price has been with the Palmer House since 1983 and leads a guided tour of the hotel called “History is Hot!” Participants eat lunch in the hotel’s Lockwood Restaurant & Bar, and visit the Palmer House’s one-room museum, which opened in 2010.

The one room Palmer House museum. Photo by Elizabeth Czapski

The history Price teaches doesn’t rely
on timelines and dry facts. Rather, he takes names and dates and weaves them
into enthralling narratives, giving life to historical figures.

The Palmer House became a social
hotspot over the years, attracting famous
guests from all over the world including
many U.S. presidents, Charles Dickens and
Buffalo Bill. Musicians like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Liberace have performed in the hotel’s Empire Room.

An original recipe brownie served at the Palmer House. Photo by Elizabeth Czapski

The hotel was advertised as the first fire-proof hotel in the world, and the first to installlighting and telephones. Potter Palmer also invented an early version of the elevator, Price said. Perhaps most importantly, one of the most popular sweet treats in America was invented at the Palmer House—the brownie.

The kitchen still serves brownies made with the original Palmer House recipe.

It isn’t necessary to stay at the Palmer House to experience its historic beauty. Just pop in the lobby for a drink to experience the Grecian frescos on the ceiling, 24-karat gold chandeliers and bronze angel statues.

Haute Dogs to help Canine Companions

By Elizabeth Czapski | Staff Writer

Published September 4, 2018

A different breed of fashion show is coming to Chicago on Sept. 20 at the Peninsula Chicago Hotel, 108 E. Superior St.

Haute Dog, a fashion show wherein both human and canine models walk the runway, will support Canine Companions for Independence, an organization that provides assistance dogs free of charge to adults, children and veterans with disabilities.

A woman and dog on the runway at a Haute Dog event. Photo by Marcin Cymer

Haute Dog began as a costume contest in Los Angeles, but three years ago, Canine Companions expanded to Chicago andchanged the format, according to Molly Schulz, the public relations and marketing coordinator for Canine Companions.

“We really wanted to find a way to combine the fashion industry and that fantastic … culture of Chicago with Canine Companions,” Schulz said.

A Haute Dog fashion show took place in Columbus, Ohio earlier this year.

This year’s models include Ravi Baichwal from ABC 7 Chicago and Natalie Bomke from Fox 32 Chicago, among other notable names. The human models will be accompanied on the runway by their own dogs or by a puppy from Canine Companions.

Members of the Greater Chicagoland Chapter of Canine Companions will volunteer at the event, assisting dog recipients and their canines. Shultz said the volunteers will be there to “mingle and talk to people so they can really hear about our mission firsthand from the people that we serve.”

A woman and service dog at a Haute Dog event. Photo by Marcin Cymer

Tails in the City, 1 E. Delaware Place, a luxury pet boutique, will provide all of the hound-some clothing for the dog models, Schulz said. Designers for the humans include Alice + Olivia, Contessa Bottega, Vince and Burdi.

All proceeds from the event will benefit Canine Companions for Independence.

In addition to the fashion show, cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and a silent auction will be available for guests, making for a paw-si-tively un-fur-gettable event.

Anyone can stargaze at the Adler

By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

Published September 5, 2018

Stargazers take note: If the night sky is unavailable, try the Adler. 

Guests get a campfire lesson on star gazing at Camp Adler. Photo by Taylor Hartz

Through the Adler’s Adler after Dark events, adults—the shows are 21 and over—have an opportunity to see something they would otherwise miss: The sky.

In August, the dome theater was set up to show the sky above in an experience called Look Up, with guests laying around a cozy mock campfire on fleece blankets strewn about the room. Host Maggie O’Brien, a facilitator at Adler playing the role of a fellow hiker, led this session where she was on a mission to spot some stars and catch a glimpse of a meteor shower.

Using a sky map on the dome screen, O’Brien pointed out stars and constellations that Chicagoans can see without trekking out into the country.

The best spot to make right now, said O’Brien, is a glimpse of Mars. O’Brien explained that thanks to a process called “opposition,” Earth and Mars are currently traveling in orbit close together, making the distinctly red planet visible from downtown. The best place to see it, said  O’Brien, is near the lakefront, or anywhere with a limited number of street lights.

In September, the Adler is asking its patrons to get decked out in their favorite ‘90s fashion and sing along to some throwback hits while learning about the rise of the internet. The night of nostalgia, themed around the decade, will take place on Sept. 20.

In October, Adler will get in the halloween spirit with a spooky look at “the deep.” This Adler After Dark event will explore the deep ocean and deep space.

All After Dark events feature specialty cocktails that fit the theme, along with other bar offerings.

“Moon juice” cocktail at Camp Adler. Photo by Taylor Hartz

“It’s not the Adler you remember as a kid, this is a unique way to experience the museum,” said Sater.

Tickets for each monthly event, held on the third Thursday of each month, go on sale the third Friday of the previous month and each month features a different theme.

In August, attendees were invited to learn about space travel. The team at Adler brought NASA astronaut Brian Duffy and the current NASA team behind the Space Launch System to talk about “extreme camping” – or, living in space.

“I’m not sure there could be any more extreme camping than going to the moon and Mars,” said Marcia Lindstrom, Strategic Communications Manager at NASA Space Launch System.For more information visit

Is it OK to touch? A New Yorker learns Chicago pizza rules

By Tom Conroy | Staff Writer

To fork or not to fork? As a native New Yorker, I always struggle with the moral conundrum of whether or not I should be eating deep dish with my hands or using a
knife and fork. Am I legally allowed to pick up a slice of deep dish pizza? Am I allowed
to fold it? When in Chicago, I want to do as the Chicagoans do, so I went straight to
the source.

The legendary Giordano’s Pizzeria, which has more than 40 locations in the Chicago area, provides a breakdown of pizza-eating styles on their website and what that says about your personality.

Their analysis of the fold-it-over-and-eat-it method says that you are an efficient and clean eater who multitasks at a fast pace. As a native New Yorker who works in media, I could not agree with this more— standing in a crowded pizzeria in Manhattan with no seating while wolfing down a couple of slices can only be accomplished with this method.

The site describes the knife-and-fork method for deep dish pizza as indicative of a patient person who savors the meal. I’m usually at a savage level of hunger when preparing to eat pizza, so I have no time for such formalities.

Brennan Holness, the restaurant manager at the Giordano’s near Millennium Park, 130 E. Randolph St., assuaged my fears when I asked about the proper way to eat
their famous deep dish pizza.“You can do whatever you feel most comfortable doing,” said Holness, a Los Angeles native who has been with Giordano’s since 2016. “I would recommend waiting for it to cool down a little bit before you go to pick it up.”

I knew I could count on a fellow transplant from one of the coasts to guide me in the right direction. Holness seemed perplexed by my use of the term “pie” to describe a pizza, but was not judgmental toward my East Coast lingo. He recommended either a Giordano’s Special (sausage, mushrooms, green peppers and onions) or a Chicago Classic (the same, but with pepperoni instead of sausage), so I guess I’m ordering one of each when I go.

Maybe I can find someone to share them with me first.

While learning about the some of the more prominent deep dish destinations in the city, I was intrigued by their histories and their connections to each other.

For instance, Lou Malnati, whose restaurant now sits at 439 N. Wells St., originally worked at Pizzeria Uno, 29 E. Ohio St. It calls to mind the history of New York pizza—how Grimaldi’s and Juliana’s came from Patsy’s, while Totonno’s came from Lombardi’s, which is considered to be New York’s first pizzeria. Giordano’s was founded by brothers Efren and Joseph Buglio in 1974, when they perfected their Mama Giordano’s Easter Pie into their famous so-called stuffed pizza, an even deeper variation of the traditional deep dish.

Now I have all the tools necessary to assimilate myself to the Windy City. I didn’t want people looking at me like the outsider I am—I just want to eat some pizza.

Annual funny fest features female talent

By Matthew Reiss | Staff Writer

August marks the return of the Chicago Women’s Funny Festival and Chicago comedian Amy  Leuenberger is a name to watch this year.

Leuenberger, who also works in New Eastside as both a paralegal and yoga instructor,  jokingly notes that her comedy career has been born out of out of rejection — and she’s okay with that. For years, Leuenberger performed as part of a popular sketch comedy group. Over time, cast members left the group for other pursuits and Leuenberger continued with a solo career. 

Amy Leuenberger. Photo courtesy of Chicago Women’s Funny Festival

After training at Second City, Leuenberger immersed herself in performance, making appearances at several clubs throughout Chicago. Her comedy is based on life experience, with an absurd twist that comes from her sketch writing days.

Over the past six years, the CWFF has become a venue catering to all genders and all types of comedy, including stand-up, improv, sketch, musical comedy, burlesque and forms yet to be categorized.

In addition, Leuenberger said she estimates only about 10 percent of Chicago stand-up comedians are women, meaning that CWFF is a rare opportunity for women to perform new material, network with other performers and appreciate each other’s work in a positive, accepting environment.

This year, 400 performers will perform 70 shows beginning Aug. 23 and running through Aug. 26. Leuenberger will perform a stand-up set at 10 p.m., Aug. 25, and then emcee for the rest of the hour.

Here are four other acts audiences shouldn’t miss at the CWFF:

  • Off Off Broadzway — A Chicago-based burlesque parody act that has been getting rave reviews for a decade.
  • Harpreet Sehmbi — a Toronto based stand-up comedian and improviser, graduate of Second City’s Conservatory, host of the Darjeelings of Comedy.
  • Anarchy: An Improvised Rock Opera – Exactly what the name suggests, a Chicago group of comedians who are also supremely talented musicians.
  • Salma Hindy — Received a Master’s in Biomedical Engineering, then hit the road from Toronto, touring North America as a stand-up comedian.

Published July 31, 2018

Updated August 3, 2018

Reaching new heights—adaptive rock climbing comes to Maggie Daley Park

By Angela Gagnon | Staff Writer

Published July 4, 2018

At first glance, the Maggie Daley Climbing Wall might seem daunting.

The mere thought of ascending 40 feet by gripping tiny rocks would give anyone pause, let alone someone in a wheelchair.

But, through a partnership between Adaptive Adventures and the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, anyone who wants to climb can.

Al Schiewe, one of the adaptive climbing lead volunteers, secures climber Suzen Riley in the ARC (adaptive ropes course) harness in preparation for her ascent. Photo by Angela Gagnon

For the third year, the Maggie Daley’s Climbing Wall hosts climbing opportunities every second and fourth Monday of the month for people with physical disabilities. Instruction, adaptive gear, support and encouragement are all provided.

Chris Werhane, the adaptive sports lead
in Chicago, says the Intro to Climbing
program welcomes about 40 climbers and

“We focus on what’s most comfortable
for the person climbing, what’s needed for
them to be successful,” Werhane said.
The adaptive equipment options can be
customized to fit the climber’s needs.

Oak Park resident and climber Suzen Riley uses an adaptive ropes course (ARC) harness along with the pulley system and handle-bar style “ascender” to experience the thrill of the climb. When she climbs, volunteer belays assist with the pulley system, and Riley grips the ascender to ratchet herself up.

“When you get up there, it’s so beautiful,” Riley said. “It’s good exercise and you feel this exhilaration that you’ve actually done it.”

The trained volunteers who assist with the climbs are just as vital to the process as the equipment.

Some climbers use side support wherein a volunteer climbs next to them as they ascend the wall. The side climber might help place a weaker limb on the rock or provide verbal assistance for visually impaired climbers. There is no limit to the styles and customized assistance climbers can use.

Adaptive Adventures was founded in 1999 by two individuals with physical disabilities who saw a need for sporting opportunities. Adaptive Adventures provides programs, camps and clinics for cycling, climbing, kayaking, skiing, sailing, scuba and more.

Greg Zbrezezny, the Chicago Program Director of Adaptive Adventures, added that they provide scholarships, too.

“The goal is to make it accessible to everyone,” said Chicago volunteer and belayer Megan Snowder.

The outdoor program will run through October, weather permitting. To learn more or to register, visit

Go like a pro to Millennium Park’s summer events

By Julie Whitehair | Community Contributor

Published July 4, 2018

Millennium Park is a hub of summer entertainment for tourists and Chicago- ans alike. From free movies to ticketed concerts, Millennium—and its Jay Pritzker Pavilion—often draws a crowd. Here’s how to enjoy the park’s performances like a pro.

Get there early

Make sure to get to Millennium Park well before the performance starts—the general admission lawn fills up fast for the park’s most hyped shows. Definitely don’t arrive
late, or you might end up sitting on the hard concrete ground for the rest of the night. Keep an eye on the park’s Twitter account @Millennium_Park for updates, incase the crowd reaches capacity.

Bring refreshments—but check if alcohol is allowed at your event

Food and non-alcoholic beverages are always allowed at Jay Pritzker Pavilion, but a few events prohibit any outdoor alcohol. You can check which days alcohol is prohibited at the City of Chicago’s website and expect officials to check bags at the entrance—the city’s placing a new security perimeter and bag check for all events at the pavilion this summer.

As for food, some visitors pick up sandwiches for a snack, while others bring a full-on spread—tiny tables, gourmet cheese platters and all. Just make sure any coolers are smaller than 26 inches long, 15 inches wide and 15 inches in height and avoid bringing metal knives or cutlery in order to adhere to the park’s guidelines listed on
their website.

Pick a spot to meet ahead of

Meeting up with friends can be difficult when they’re giving vague directions to where they’re sitting. Avoid this by meeting outside the park or designating a spot near a notable location ahead of time—don’t be the person obnoxiously standing and waving in the crowd right before a show begins.

Rub-a-dub-dub, your drink’s in a tub

By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

Published July 4, 2018

Rubber ducks in a cocktail—need we say more? When we heard about the adorable, bubbly cocktail at The Bassment, 353 W. Hubbard St., we had to see—and taste—it for ourselves.

At Bassment, an underground live music venue below The Hampton Social Club, they serve their speciality cocktail not in a glass but in a bathtub. That’s right, The Bathtub arrives exactly how it sounds, in a miniature ceramic tub with tiny golden faucet taps—
but instead of water and bubbles, it’s filled with a tasty beverage.

This Instagram sensation is made with cucumber-infused vodka, jalapeño and a foamy layer of bubble bath made of lemon meringue. To complete the look, it’s topped off with an adorable rubber ducky.

At Three Dots and a Dash, 435 N. Clark St., make sure you’ve got your camera out and ready, because at the tiki-themed River North bar, you’ve got to get the perfect shot before you take the first sip. At Three Dots and a Dash glasses are designed to
look like tiki totems, skeletons and fish and the drinks themselves are vibrant hues of coral, teal and purple. Each is garnished with something different, from rubber toy sharks and skull-topped toothpicks to fresh tropical flowers and mermaid swizzle sticks.

The Caribbean punch is served in a heavy stone vessel, carved to look like a coral reef fish with big eyes and crooked, jagged fangs. It’s topped off with a tiny colorful skull, a lime slice and a bright pink flower.

The fish is filled with aged Jamaican and Panamanian rums, lime, pineapple, sarsaparilla, falernum and fassionola for a unique, flavorful summer refreshment.

Streeterville mural adds a touch of green to area

By Stephanie Racine | Staff Writer

Published July 4, 2018

In mid-June, after six weeks of work, the Nancy Pochis Art Studio unveiled the new art piece, “Urbs in Horto,” Latin for Chicago’s motto, City in a Garden.

“Our goal was to depict botanic places in Chicago,” said Nancy Pochis Bank, the owner of Nancy Pochis Bank Art Studio. “We really wanted to brighten up that entryway.”

“This permanent, painted mural will be nine feet tall and a full city-block long (nearly 200 feet),” according to an emailed release from Nancy Pochis Bank Art Studio. The mural depicts Chicago covered in greenery, including flowers, butterflies and cornucopia. “It starts with the Logan Square Farmers Market, from south to north,” said Pochis Bank. The mural then depicts herbs as a transitional element—as Embassy Suites grows their own herbs.

It also includes the tulips from Michigan Ave., the Illinois state flower, the violet, mums which are Chicago’s flower and the Illinois insect, monarch butterflies.

The mural is located at the Embassy Suites’ valet drop-off, east of Columbus between Illinois and Grand, next to AMC River East.

According to NPB’s website, “NPB Studio Artists work as a team to create original large scale artwork that has maximum creative impact.” Their process includes a brainstorming session with the client, a thumbnail sketch, a finalized sketch and the execution of artwork, according to the NPB website. A team of two to six artists ultimately works on the design and implementation. Four female artists from Nancy Pochis Bank Art Studio worked on the Streeterville mural, including Pochis Bank herself, Shayne Taylor, Brandin Hurley, and Brittney Leeanne Williams.

NPB Studio has several projects featured around Chicago, including a chalkboard world map at Wicker Park’s Wixter Fish Market and lettering on the entrance to the press box in Wrigleyville.

The studio also does live mural or chalkboard paintings, including a Hungry Caterpillar chalk design at the Lakeview Chamber of Congress’s Sunday Spot event. NPB also created a live mural at Vitromex’s 2016 Tradeshow at McCormick Place. For more information on NPB Studio, visit

Jumping at the Bean: Local photographer captures unique moments at Cloud Gate

By Angela Gagnon
Staff Writer

Locals and visitors alike flock to Cloud Gate, affectionately known as the Chicago Bean to get up close and personal with the spectacular piece of art that is practically synonymous with the city of Chicago. The sculpture, created by British artist Anish Kapoor, has become an immensely popular backdrop for photographs since its installment in 2006.

For one local woman, The Bean has become much more than just a place to hone her photography skills. Five years ago, native Chicagoan Susan May Romano began taking walks from her Loop office where she works as a legal assistant, to Millennium Park during her lunch break.

With camera in hand, she snaps photos along the way and posted them to her Facebook page. One day she stopped at The Bean and casually asked a group of people if they would “jump” for her. Since then, May Romano has taken thousands of photos and collected just as many stories from the people she has met on this unique artistic journey.

“As a photographer, I love shadows and
reflections and wanted to see how it would
look if I shot from a crouched position on
the sunny side of the Bean,” May Romano
said. The photos are uploaded to Facebook
and Twitter so people can view them, save
them or share them at no cost.
The collection of stunning “jumping at the Bean” photos is only part of what makes May Romano’s photography so appealing. The stories behind the people in her photos have not only enhanced the extraordinary visuals, but also personally connected May Romano to the people she photographs.

In 2015 May Romano met U.S. Border Patrol Agent Michael Barrow from New Mexico who was in Chicago for a stem cell transplant at Northwestern Hospital in an effort to cure his Multiple Sclerosis. May Romano recalls getting chills when she heard this, because she herself had been a stem cell transplant patient. It seemed fate had connected the two.

“It’s great running into such positive people who genuinely care about how you’re doing and that want to see you overcome the odds and beat a disease. It gives me hope in humanity,” said Barrow, who came back to jump for May Romano a second time after being released from the hospital. The two continue to stay in touch and May Romano said Barrow is doing well, working full time and enjoying time with his family.

On a sunny day in May, May Romano was out shooting when she met some recent graduates of Penn State, who were on a road trip to Colorado. “We were approached by this lady in a flower dress,” said Derek Barnett, originally from Texas.

When asked if they wanted to jump, Barnett replied, “We’re adventurous, so yes!”

After capturing a perfect synchronized photo of the four in midair, May Romano proceeded to offer the group helpful advice about what they might do next in Chica- go. They were all ears, smiling and nodding at her heartfelt and knowledgeable suggestions.

Yet another example is Marcia Brink from Kingston, Illinois, who came to Chicago in September of 2014 to spend time with high school friends, one of whom had recently been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. The group met May Romano while visiting the Bean and jumped for her. Upon returning home, Brink realized how precious those photos were, since it would probably be the last time she saw her friend, who lost her battle to cancer less than four months later. “Her survival story, zest for life, whimsical rhymes, passion for photography and cookie baking too, just made me want to get to know this woman,” Brink said of May Romano.

“I have always believed people enter our lives for a reason, and Susan May Romano has entered mine to remind me to capture the little moments and cherish them forever.”

May Romano describes her “Jumping at The Bean” photography as a healing hobby. “It’s my passion and l love my city.” She has met people from all over the world, whose jumping styles are as unique as their stories. “This is part of what fills me up in life,” she said. “This is all gravy.”

On sunny days, you can find May Romano shooting her famous jumping shots on the south side of The Bean during her lunch hour. For more information on her work and to see her photos, visit her Facebook Page “Jumping at The Bean” or follow her on Twitter @jumpingatthebean.

Published June 5, 2018

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