Chain reaction

Don’t be fooled by first appearances. These could easily be disgruntled punters beating a quick retreat; or troublemakers that have been shown the door. In reality this is the former Juno’s fan club President and Vice President, braving the elements following an anniversary meal at Miller and Carter’s Steakhouse on the outskirts of Cardiff.

Miller and Carters Thornhill [1]

I might be a little fussy about where I eat; but then I wouldn’t have been looked after so well by Juno and Bella, in their respective times, if I hadn’t been so fussy and discerning (or, that is what they would frequently remind me anyway).

One way in which these fastidious ways present themselves is a well-developed scepticism of anything chain-related. Not because I am aspiring to be a narrow-minded snob (I’m saving that treat for the full-on retirement years). More on the basis of having spent far too much of the precious time I have on this planet sat in chain-related establishments. In the interests of avoiding libel suits they shall remain unnamed (but you know who you are… and there are a lot of you littering otherwise interesting places).

Miller and Carter Steakhouses seem to be a chain who like to advertise their ‘love of Steak’, on their windows and just about everywhere else where space permits. Personally, my only previous visit, to another branch, didn’t quite provide that loved-up steak vibe. So, I attended this soiree with the full knowledge that the choice of eatery would be out of my control.

So, much to my surprise the whole experience can best be described as ‘succulent’! The King Prawns had just the right amount of spice to claim the description… garlicky. And, in an expression of modern culinary delivery, why affect the taste by tipping the pan contents onto a plate when you can simply put the pan on the plate? I’m not sure the pile of leaves constitute one of your five-a-day allocation for the fruit and veg stuff though.

Miller and Carters Thornhill [2]

But, the big test was yet to come. Fillet Steak is a mainstay of this gastronome’s on-the-road diet. No worries (as I turn Australian for a second), as the steak was cooked to medium rare perfection. The bowl of lettuce with a choice of slop to add on (bacon and honey seen here is recommended) was a nice twist for imposing some healthy note to the otherwise cholesterol infusing presentation…

Miller and Carters Thornhill [3]

The Argentinian Malbec (Aguaribay, in this case) was a great complement to the succulent fare.

Until we speak again, circumvent any car crash catastrophes… choose culinary chains with considerable caution.

Innovative pie fillings

There was a time when I suspected that Juno used to spend time plotting her escape…

Plotting an escape

But, with a Science Plan diet, that she experienced as being no more than a bowl of crunchy rocks…

Science plan      … I came to realise, that all she surveyed, was indeed an imaginative fantasy of pie fillings that could have been!

Juno was a lady of fine taste, so I have no doubt that fast food would be out of the question…

Squirrell [2]

Then again, anything that looked too oily was best left out of the pan, and would be safe and slick in the local canal (or dock feeder, as I am occasionally reminded by local aquatic aficionados)…

Bird in canal

Some of the potential fillings might be a little on the tough side. It might be a little difficult to have a stomping meal, if the meal is doing the stomping…

Seagull on binstore

While other ingredients just might require a larger oven…

Heron @ Atlantic Wharf

But, just once in a while, a game of hide and seek will provide an entertaining appetizer to the main feast. This morsel thought it was carefully camouflaged from the prying eyes of predators…

Can't see me

Until it decided on the old head above the parapet technique…Now you can

Maybe some of the best meals were the ones that just got away!

Now I'm off

Until we speak again, don’t forget to spit out the beaks… the crunching puts off your fellow diners!

Aqua Tower

As my loyal follower will be aware, there are some truly beautiful skyscrapers in Chicago. But, my favourite has to be the Aqua Tower, glimpsed here through the modernist Pritzker Pavilion structure in Millennium Park.

Millenium Park Pritzker Pavilion [4]

In our latest phase of righteous indignation at the inequality experienced by women in a so-called man’s world, it is refreshing to hear that this building is the tallest to-date to be designed by a female-led architecture firm, that of Jeanne Gang based in Chicago. It is credited with contours, vertical landscapes and undulating pools, projecting a striking outward appearance…

Aqua Tower [2]

The Aqua Tower is designed with green elements incorporated, such as roof gardens, and balcony patterns and glass tints to maximise solar shading and exposure.

Aqua Tower [3]

 

Within its finer details, the balconies are projections of the tower’s floors, as a means of creating outdoor terraces as communal spaces for residents.

 

Aqua Tower [1]

So, until we speak again, Juno and Bella would both have agreed… that if you want a thing of environmental beauty instead of a macho willy-waving pissing up the wall competition, the go-to person is quite probably a woman!

 

Who needs Glastonbury?

If it’s July then it must be time for Cardiff Bay to host the International Food Festival. That’s the one where cuisine from all over… well Cardiff, masquerades as being representative of the four corners of the globe (who said the world is round?). And, while I am asking the fundamental questions of life, why go continental when you can have Welsh crepes?

Food Festival 2017 crowd [2]

But then again, it’s all about folks coming together and having fun, not serious authenticity…

Food Feestival 2017 crowd [1]

The music line up is to be marvelled at… here you will find a whole lot of musical concoctions you’ve never heard of… and quite probably will never hear of again!

Food Festival 2017 music

And, though Martin Scorsese is known for his music documentary films, such as ‘The Last Waltz’ (The Band) and ‘Shine a Light’ (The Rolling Stones)… move over man, it’s time for some revolutionary music filming techniques. Check out 40 seconds of ‘Bae Caerdydd‘… a sideways glance at a fusion of African, Irish and Caribbean flavours!

But it’s really all about the food. And, until we speak again, this cat is going to be immersed in a black pudding scotch egg (courtesy of the Handmade Scotch Egg Company) with cheese to blow your socks off (courtesy of Blacks Cheeses). What’s not to love about cheese with combinations like Irish Whiskey & Stem Ginger, or Caramelised Onion & Rioja, or Jalepeno & Lime, finishing off with some Sticky Toffee cheese?

Blacks Cheeses

Scuze me while I…

… kiss the sky. One thing you must do when in Chicago is… ‘look up’! Many places may claim to be home to the skyscraper, but few can challenge Chicago for architectural variety and significance when it comes to  construction in the vertical plane. And where better to appreciate the visual feast (and strain your neck), than messing about on the Chicago River?

River view by day

The ‘Jewelers Building’ to the right in the following picture dates back to 1926. The four corner crowns were an elaborate way of disguising water tanks. To protect the valuable commodities, this building originally accommodated basement drive-in elevators that would take vehicles up to the required floor.

River architecture [1]

Immediately opposite are the 1969 and 2009 stages of modernism. To the left is the IBM Building designed with energy consumption at the heart of its architecture. While to the right is an example of personal ego, emblazoned with the name of someone who has fragrantly ignored contemporary concerns for climate change and conservation (viewed from many angles the name can be avoided, but if you get the light and shade correctly aligned it may occasionally read ‘RUMP’).

River architecture inc Trump Tower

Then come the visually twin towers of Marina City aka the corn cobs. A futuristic vision emerging from the early 1960’s.

Riverboat trip [4]

Who says urban high rise living lacks a stunning aesthetic? Unfortunately, to live here might well require a stunning bank balance. This isn’t going to be the revolutionary vision for ‘The Projects”!

Riverboat trip [15]

Gently floating along the river parallel to Wacker Drive, it is quite easy to imagine you are in the midst of an urban re-enactment of a Grand Canyon stylised landscape. No? just me on some far out visionary trip then.

Riverboat trip [16]

Then comes an architectural mystery. How can you build up so high from such a narrow v-shaped base? Economics and advances in technology eventually combine to give rise to 150 North Riverside, limited at its base between a river and an active railroad. To counter the effects of wind on the whole structure, 12 rooftop tanks contain 1000 tons of water to counteract natural movement.

Riverboat trip [29]

Formerly the worlds tallest building, the Wills (nee Sears) Tower uses a bundled tube framework for its design, to enable stability at the increased height. The younger neighbour (with a neon crown) uses contrasting detailing in its shape and design, in order to create its own unique contribution next to the towering icon.

Riverboat trip [28]

Meanwhile, back at the confluence of the y-shaped rivers, one of many navigation-based reflective themes to be seen in the riverside designs presents in a striking fashion. In 1983, the 333 West Wacker Drive building adopted the curve of the river as its over-arching theme. the tinted glass is also a reflection that harmonies with the water below.

Riverboat trip [31]

As dusk sets in the skyline adopts a new magical presentation…

Riverboat trip [42]

Riverboat trip [46]

… and the illuminated Tribune Tower provides a beacon for the return to dry land for the intrepid architectural enthusiasts…

River architecture [3]

Until we speak again, a special thanks goes out to the Chicago Architecture Foundation for providing such a fabulously insightful historical excursion.

‘Titanic’ for dinner, anyone?

A trip to Belfast shouldn’t induce any kind of sinking feeling, even when you are greeted with a sign that could easily be directing you to some dismal place at the bottom of the Atlantic

Road sign

There is a distinct landmark offered by the twin cranes, Samson and Goliath, of Harland and Wolff providing a beacon to draw you towards the location where the Titanic was built (even when gazing out of the hotel window).

However, these are a relatively modern monument to past industrial glory (circa 1969). Back in the day, the Titanic was built in a backdrop of harsher times, and the following pictures contrast a vision of the early 20th century with the present day exact location of its construction (actually marked out in detail on the ground)…

In a world where everything that is rooted to the spot can now be classified as a museum, to something or another, the Titanic has been commemorated by a particularly spectacular building, where every dimension and use of materials symbolises something about the original short-lived icon…

Museum building [1]

Museum building [3]

But, what about that dinner? Well, you could try the Bistro in the museum itself. My time was limited so I sampled the wares of the sleekly designed Premier Inn hotel. After all, some of us are visiting Belfast for work purposes you know (with a wonderful welcome from the Belfast Home Treatment Team)!

Premier Inn

Here, a Sirloin Steak can be adequately complemented by a glass of a Malbec Reserva. Just remember, when your waitress asks if you would like water with it, the reply is ‘NO ICE’!

Premier Inn steak

Until we speak again, you surely didn’t expect a carnivorous cat to ask for a vegetarian steak, did you!? For the record, unlike on that horrendous day in April 1912, only one animal suffered in the making of this blog post.