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Chicago restaurant brings fresh California cuisine to the Midwest

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For chef Erling Wu-Bower, few things are better than breaking bread with friends and family and settling into a lively conversation with good food and drink. And that is the premise behind Pacific Standard Time, a California-inspired restaurant Wu-Bower opened in April in Chicago’s bustling River North neighbourhood with his partner, Joshua Tilden. Their company, Underscore Hospitality, in turn, teamed up with the three owners — Donnie Madia, Paul Kahan and Terry Alexander — of One Off Hospitality, the crew behind the popular Chicago restaurants Blackbird and Avec.

The light-filled PST has midcentury modern touches like sleek brass fixtures, earth tones, light wood flooring and white tiles, evoking a homey feel. But it’s a pair of wood-burning ovens that form the centrepiece of the restaurant.

Open to the dining room, one oven is dedicated to fluffy pitas and rustic pizzas, the other for roasting everything from fresh fish and produce imported from California, to hearty local meats, which will become more plentiful on the menu as the weather gets colder. Nearly everything coming out of the kitchen has some sort of wood-roasted component, and that’s intentional.

“I love eating things cooked in a wood-fired oven, things with burned edges,” Wu-Bower said. “Sometimes a piece of cod may break in the oven and we’ll still put it on the plate.”

Start your meal with one of the fluffy-yet-crisp pita dishes, served alongside abundant ahi over green chickpea hummus, or a wood-fired eggplant with creamy whipped ribolina. Follow that with another star on the menu: Harry’s Berries Strawberries. Wu-Bower found the strawberries at the Santa Monica Farmers Market — people were lining up to get them — and, after tasting one, knew he had to import them to Chicago. Served with soft stracciatella, seasonal snap peas and hazelnuts, the dish is accompanied by seeded 1979 bread, courtesy of the head baker at Publican Quality Bread, Greg Wade.

It’s somewhat unusual that a California-inspired restaurant would have not one, but two sections on its menu dedicated to carbs, but Wu-Bower said that diners can’t get enough of the pastas and rustic wood-fired pizzas. PST also serves dishes that are intended for two or more: whole roasted duck, roasted Slagel Farm rib-eye or the Mount Lassen trout served with a zesty, clean zhoug and, of course, pitas for sopping up the sauce or eating the fish like tacos.

The pastry chef at PST, Natalie Saben, worked at the now-closed restaurant Grace, which had three Michelin stars. Her desserts are an elegant counterpoint to a casual dinner. A chocolate tart is paired with peanut dukkah, the Egyptian spice mix, and peanut ice cream, and a slightly savory buttermilk cake is served with huckleberry sorbet, spice meringue, basil and honey ice cream.

PST follows a trend set in Chicago in the past couple of years at restaurants like Summer House Santa Monica, Bad Hunter and Ema, where the focus is on fresh produce and leaner meats, and brightly lighted rooms that bring people together.

“I love eating with family, both blood and not,” Wu-Bower said. “It’s my favourite thing to do. When you break bread at the start of a meal, it just feels right. You tear hot bread, run it through the sauce — life and conversation is a little better. For me, that’s the heart and soul of what we do.”

Pacific Standard Time, 141 W Erie St., Chicago; pstchicago.com.

An average meal for two without drinks or tip is $80.

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Travel & Escape

Lottoland: Here’s why Canadians love it!

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Lotteries have been in existence for many centuries now and it’s an open secret that most people enjoy playing a good lottery.

Asides from gauging your own luck, the thrill of playing, the anticipation of the results and the big wins every now and then is something most people look forward to. Since 1982, the lottery has been in Canada, but now there is a way to play both the Lotto and other international lotteries from Canada, all from the comfort of your home.

With Lottoland, all you need to do is register and get access to numerous international lotteries right from their website. The easy-to-use interface has all the information you need, and great amount of care has been taken to ensure that the online experience is similar—and even better—than if players were to visit each location personally.

The Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries are hitting record highs with their prize money, in what the organizers claim to be the largest jackpot in the history of the world. However, the U.S. has gambling laws that are state controlled and buying your ticket through an online broker can be considered gambling.

“No one except the lottery or their licensed retailers can sell a lottery ticket. No one. Not even us. No one. No, not even that website. Or that one,” Powerball’s website says.

Therefore, to stand a chance to win the $1.5 billion-dollar lottery jackpot it means you have to purchase your lottery tickets directly from a licensed retailer such as Lottoland.

Since 2013, Lottoland has been operating in Canada, rapidly growing in popularity amongst Canadians. Due to its easy of use and instant access to lotteries that were previously considered inaccessible—as Canadians had to travel all the way to the U.S. to purchase tickets in the past—Lottoland has attracted lots of visitors.

Currently, there about 8-million players on Lottoland, a figure that points to the reliability of the website.

One of the core values of Lottoland is transparency and that’s why a quick search on the website would show you a list of all of their winners. Recently, a Lottoland customer was awarded a world-record fee of $137 million CND.

Also, due to the incredibly slim chances of winning the grand prize not everyone would take home mega-dollar winnings, but there are substantial winnings every day.

Securing your information online is usually one important factor when registering on any platform and as the site explains, “Lottoland works very hard to verify your information.”

The site has a multi-verification process that will ensure that you confirm your identity and age before giving you a pay-out. However, in the rare case that a player has immediate luck and wins a lottery before completing the verification process, Lottoland will hold on to the winnings until they complete your verification.

While this might seem like a tedious process, it is very important as these safety features would ensure that your information wasn’t stolen and ultimately your winning routed to another account.

Lottoland is licensed with the National Supervisory Bodies For Lotteries in several countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, Ireland and Australia—where it is called a wagering license. Typically, most gaming companies don’t establish insurance companies as it entails that their activities have to be transparent and the must be highly reputable in the industry.

Nonetheless, Lottoland has no issues meeting up to these standards as they have established themselves as the only gaming sector company who has its own insurance company—an added advantage for new and existing users.

Lotteries aren’t the only games Canadians enjoy playing and Lottoland recognizes this by providing players with other types of gaming. As an industry leader, video designers of online games often make them their first choice when it comes to publishing their works.

Online games such as slots, blackjack, video poker, baccarat, keno, scratchoffs, roulette and many others are always on offer at the Lottoland Casino. There’s also the option of playing with a live dealer and a total of over 100 games.

Lottoland has received numerous rave reviews from its growing list of satisfied customer and their responsive customer service agents are always available to answer any questions users may have, along with solving challenges they may have encountered.

More and more Canadians are trooping to Lottoland in droves due to the unique experience of going to a casino without having to leave the comfort of their homes.

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Travel & Escape

Dealing with baggage on your trip

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(NC)Nothing is more embarrassing than having to unpack your baggage at the airport. It’s common to overpack because you want to make sure you have everything you need for your trip – the right shoes, a jacket in case it’s cold, a bathing suit in case there’s a pool. But you must be mindful of the baggage restrictions. So, how can you be smart with your baggage when travelling?

The first thing to do is talk to your TICO-certified travel agent about the weight restrictions and number of bags you are allowed to take. Some airlines charge per bag, while others may offer one bag for free depending on weight.

You’ll also need to know if there are security requirements for carry-on and checked baggage. For example, there may be prohibited items such as gels and liquids. These limitations vary from airline to airline and depends on if your flight is international or domestic, so you’ll need to check the policy of the airline you’re travelling with.

Naturally, you want to avoid incurring baggage fees, so talk to your travel agent, or contact the airline directly. You can also visit their website to review the luggage policy.

Here are a few more tips to help you manage your baggage when travelling:

  • Clearly label all baggage with your name, home address, and contact information
  • Place an identification tag inside the baggage in case the outside tag is torn off
  • Lock bags with CATSA/ACTSA travel locks
  • Put a colourful ribbon or other identifying marks on your bags so they are easily recognizable
  • Carry valuables in your hand luggage; jewelry, money, medications, important documents, etc.

You can’t carry everything with you, so be smart when you pack. Take only necessary items and focus on your trip.

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Travel & Escape

What travellers need to know if a destination wedding is cancelled

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(NC) It’s two weeks before you’re scheduled to attend a destination wedding and then you get the call. The wedding has been called off.

Sure, you’re upset for the couple, but now you’re faced with plane tickets and hotel reservations. So, what can you do?

There’s no reason why you can’t go and enjoy the trip, but bear in mind you may face a price increase, especially if this was part of a group booking. Group bookings often include a minimum number of travellers to get the discounted price, as well as terms and conditions regarding changes or cancellations.

You could ask other travellers to come along to keep the group discount. But name changes often count as cancellations based on the terms of the vacation package and premium charges may apply. If you booked with a TICO-registered travel agency, website or tour company, it’s better to contact them and ask about options before making any decisions.

While it’s devastating for the couple who planned the destination wedding, the fact is that the cancellation affects all the confirmed guests. So, it’s important to know your options so you can salvage an unfortunate situation. Always book with a TICO-registered travel agency, website or tour operator so you can circle back and find out what they can do for you.

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