Sunday, February 24, 2013

I'm Green, You're Green, We're all Green for...Nitrate Free Baceen...?

Here at Ray's we try to be as "green" as possible.  You won't see us walking around in hemp sacks, but we do try to do our best while still remaining normal people who run a business.

We buy meat and eggs from local farmers, and try to purchase organic when possible.  Naturally, being the dead of winter, Chicago is not swimming in fresh produce, but the Logan Square Farmer's Market trucks on throughout the coldest months holing up in the Congress Theater every Sunday.  Here are a few of our regular stops for goods:

Jake's Country Meats - run by Lou Ann...and  her husband (she seems to really be the one in charge :)  ) get us our bacon and ham every week.  Take a look at the website to see how their animals grow up - it's practically a cartoon.  Wide open grass spaces, trees for shade, rainbows and butterflies abound i'm sure.  No nitrates in sight and you can REALLY tell the difference with the ham compared to store bought.  Trust me on this.  My nickname at work is HAM HANDS.  Check out their video to learn more.

Tempel Farms Organics is our magic egg source.   In the summer they provide eggs and organic produce at the outdoor market, and in the winter Dave the Knife Sharpening Guy - relative to Tempel Farms, is nice enough to bring our eggs to the indoor market.  We've noticed with these eggs that the yolks look better, they hold together better (good for when you're used to getting frustrated flipping over easy eggs and cursing the gods when they break) and the whole experience is much richer.  We buy by the case but you can purchase just a dozen or so, or sign up for one of their summer CSA shares

Now once our guests have scarfed down the all-natural-nitrate-free-organic goodies for breakfast, they are often too stuffed to polish off that last little remnant of their breakfast plate - the garnish.  No worries!  We compost!  Leftover garnish and scraps from our ingredients get respectfully dumped into our kitchen compost and then transferred to the great outdoors to finish their journey (no meat, dairy, or pastry allowed!).  We had our contractor build us a special large compost bin which every couple months or so the luckiest employee or two gets to rotate and turn it to keep everything composting nicely.  Usually this duty falls on whoever's birthday it is, or the person wearing nice clothes and/or white.

Just a look into how cool and progressive we are, you know, not to brag or anything.  We also grow our own garden of herbs - which we can't seem to locate a nice summer picture of, so this may give you an idea: it's pretty much an urban fern gully.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Spend the Day in Wicker Park / Bucktown

For those of us who call Chicago home there are a few things we wish out-of-towners knew:

-Don't call Chicago "The Chi" - it will give you away
-Don't put ketchup on your hotdogs
-Public transportation is your friend
-Deep Dish pizza is a challenge not to be taken lightly
-Magnificent Mile doesn't own the best shopping - one could argue that right in the backyard of Ray's Bucktown Bed and Breakfast you can find some of the best, most interesting and independent shops in the city.  Here are some of our favorites and why:

4 Miles 2 Memphis is a new fixture in the neighborhood - thanks to the hard work of one the cast-members of American Pickers. Upcycled silk, taffeta, satin and lace make their refurbished appearance as artfully crafted "green" goods such as posters, gifts, clothing,etc.

Rudy's Roundup is a staff favorite and many a white-elephant gift has been bought here over the years.  This year's purchases included a tea infuser shaped like a robot, star trek playing cards, and various unique and humorous greeting cards.  It's a local "treasure" for sure, and not something you would ever find on the Magnificent Mile

Even when it gets windy out, the true trendsetters and secretly prosperous hipsters may be seen wearing hats from Goorin Bros hat shop.  Yes, if you do your research you will find out this is in fact a chain with locations throughout the U.S. but it's a fun shop idea and reflects well the eclectic nature of the shopping district in Wicker Park / Bucktown.  Hats for all ages and styles!  Just, if you buy a quality-made fedora, remain aware that you are, in fact, still wearing a fedora.

If you need a caffeine break, or simply want to protect your new hat from the Chicago wind-tunnel along Milwaukee Ave, you can rest up in Filter Cafe - in true hipster style they do not have a website, but it's worth a stop, especially if you are 400 feet away at Rudy's Roundup.  They have the largest capacity for seating in the neighborhood, with plenty of couches and tables to pick from, and a decent food menu as well.  It's right in the middle of awkwardly-silent and annoyingly-loud.  The perfect din for either getting work done or chatting to the fedora-wearing stranger next to you bonding over your hat-wear tastes.

Moving right along, we come to Reckless Records - one of the spots that makes Wicker Park what it is. Huge selection, and even if you emerge to find you have wiled away the daylight hours you will be happy you did.  Chances are you'll walk out with something you didn't even know you wanted.  But you bought it anyway. 

photo from
Quimby's Bookstore and Myopic Books are the best of a dying breed; good, old fashioned bookstores. Myopic is large in comparison to most crowded and unorganized used bookstores and manages to keep their stock pretty well divided by genre and author alphabetically.  They also host poetry readings and other such finger-snapping events.  Quimby's leans more towards the independent author scene, hosting zines and comics from local artists and authors as well as those well known to enthusiasts.  Check out No More Coffee zine, authored by the incredible man-friend of our own dearest manager.

Tired from all your shopping and people watching?! Come stay at Ray's Bucktown Bed and Breakfast of course!

Monday, February 11, 2013

20 Things To Do During A Chicago Winter

Winter in Chicago doesn't have to be a lost cause - check out these awesome things you can do while sheltered from our winter wonderland.  And once you're tired from a day out and about, why not stay at Ray's Bucktown Bed and

  1. The Art Institute  - If you don't fancy the normal practice of museums charging exorbitant admission prices when you are already only pretending to like art, then you are in luck.  Free weekdays at the Art Institute for Illinois Residents until Feb 13th.  Not from this great state?  You can still get in free on Thursdays from 5-8pm
  2. Shedd Aquarium - Luckily, for as much money as teachers make, they are in no rush to bundle up 50 kids and truck them to a museum only to carry around their snowpants for 3 hours.  Which means less school groups, which means an exponentially more enjoyable experience during the colder months. Illinois resident? check out the list of discount days here.
  3. Ice Skating - Millenium Park is the most popular destination for making a fool of yourself with tiny sleds tied to your feet, but check out a few more options here.
  4. The Skydeck - The "Willis" (Sears) tower has a glass-bottomed ledge on the 103rd floor.  Perfect for a variety of things - torturing friends suffering from fear of heights, bringing a broom and pretending to be Harry Potter playing an urban game of Quidditch, or even proposing.  Yes, they make arrangements for those wanting to hop on the bandwagon of proposing to your significant other while they pee their pants out of fear.
  5. Signature Room at the John Hancock - Avoid the admission fee ($17.50) for the observatory and grab a drink at the Signature Room - just a floor or two away. propose here and you may avoid the pants-soiling atmosphere that you would get if you chose the skydeck instead.  
  6. Navy Pier Imax Theater - This way, if people ask if you've been to Navy Pier you can say yes, without having to suffer through the actual experience of Navy Pier.
  7. Garfield Park Conservatory - It's the best, it really is, just trust me on this one.
  8. Chicago History Museum - During summer months, there is no way you would think to stop in here unless to get some much-needed A/C - it's right next to north ave beach.  But in the winter-time parking is much easier, and you would do well to hole up here for a few hours and learn some stuff.  
  9. Museum of Science and Industry - See "Shedd Aquarium" - similar reasons to go during the winter season (less kids) - for a list of free days, check here.
  10. Birding at Montrose Harbor - Obviously Ray, the Avian-obsessed, made this a must have on the list.  Apparently there is decent birding near this beach at a bird sanctuary, and no, he will not count seagulls towards your life-list.  We've tried.
  11. Oriental Institute Museum - The most under-appreciate museum in the city in my opinion.  Small but extensive, it features artifacts from Egypt, Mesopotamia, Assyria, and all the ancient heavyweights.  Learn something.  Housed at the University of Chicago.
  12. National Museum of Mexican Art - Off the beaten path this museum is in the Pilsen neighborhood - somewhere worth visiting even if it's just because admission is FREE and you can find some pretty awesome authentic food in the neighborhood.
  13. Brew & View - If you want to feel like you're going out, but don't really want to do much, Brew & View is perfect.  Housed in the Vic theater in the Lakeview neighborhood right off the Belmont Red line El stop. $5 gets you a double/triple feature movie - that's about 83 cents an hour for 6 hours of second-run movies, sticky floors, uncomfortable seats, and most likely copious amounts of beer to get you through.
  14. Planetarium - Lots of discount days in the winter months and "Adler After Dark" is a nice alternative to the normal museum experience.
  15. Architecture Foundation - The tour guides know their stuff, even if that does make them a bit snooty, but they're the best at what they do and offer a range of tours, some safely sheltered inside for warmth such as the new Pedway tour - "warm walk, cool architecture"
  16. Theater - Book of Mormon - This musical just will not die, so it must be good. Lots of other stuff going on in the theater world here as well.  Want to see Mike Tyson in a one-man show? Yeah, we've got that (February 15th &16th only)
  17. Gene Siskel Film Center- Why ANYONE would pay $12 a pop to see Channing Tatum in ANYTHING when this theater is so close and so much cheaper I have no idea.  It may be a different story of course if Ryan Gosling is playing in a multiplex, obviously no one can resist that.  But the Siskel Film Center has a continuously impressive lineup of indie and foreign films, reasonable prices, and it's a nice venture downtown on a cold day, you only really have to walk a block from the heated train to the heated theater.
  18. International Museum of Surgical Science - Did you miss the traveling "Bodies" exhibit? This will be a nice substitute.  Sufficiently creepy i'm sure.
  19. Swedish American Museum - It's no wonder we have a Swedish Museum, a Ray's employee graduated from a Chicago university at which "Reid" was a more popular name than Ben and brunettes were the minority. Celebrate your inner viking at this Andersonville spot - and check out the neighborhood while you're at it, lots of good stuff.
  20. Brewery Tours - Many a Saturday could be well spent on a brewery tour at Half Acre, Revolution, Goose Island, Haymarket, and even Koval Distillery.  Warm yourself and whet your whistle.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Restaurant Week

Around Bucktown:

So Chicago is no Hollywood.  It's a fact.  Our weather this time of year leaves a lot to be desired and you trade in attractive blonde people for walking michelin men in sleeping bag coats.  BUT occasionally we do get our turn in the spotlight.  Chicago Fire - a CBS show in which "America's everyday heroes face life and death" has made Bucktown a regular spot on their shooting schedule.

Around Chicago:

Contrary to popular belief, not all Chicagoans hibernate from November - May (though many do) and there are actually quite a few things to do in Chicago in the winter.   Keep checking back as we relay 20 things to do during winter in Chicago - highlighting a new activity every day or so.  Even if it takes us till April to figure out 20 things to do, it'll still be cold.

Right now we've got something great going on: Restaurant Week

Restaurant Week is in full swing, but there are still 5 days to enjoy all that the city's warm, heated, restaurants have to offer.  With over 250 participants spread out through several neighborhoods, you're bound to find something that tickles your fancy.  It works like this - you get to try out a bunch of great restaurants that run affordable prix fix menus for lunch and dinner. ( $22 for lunch, $33-44 for dinner).  Just down the street, a guest favorite, the Bristol, is taking part; check out their menu here.

Francesca's Forno, right on your way here if you get off of the Damen Blue Line stop, is also a part of Restaurant week. While the Bristol is known as higher-end american fare, Francesca's will hit the italian shaped spot in your belly.  Restaurant Week menu here.

Some other nearby spots to hit this week:

...Fair warning, if you leave restaurant week leftovers in the B&B fridge, the mysterious foodie monster may eat them.