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    What to Watch After Stuffing Your Face, with Wine Pairings

    Easter is a time for stuffing your face with too much ham and mashed potatoes, eating a plethora of candy and sending the kids out to hunt for the eggs. Adults, beer hunts, or mini hard alcohol hunts are the way to go, just be sure to grab the beer googles while you’re doing it. Also, before any activities are happening, make sure the ham is in the over and ready to go. We don’t want Aunt Janice to be upset dinner isn’t done on time.

    When you’re all done eating, there is nothing better than entering a food coma with something on your television. We at The Mommy Gamers have compiled a list of television shows and movies that you can watch after the fact. While not every movie is family friendly, we’ll make sure that we annotate movies that children should not be present. Unbutton those pants and take a load off!

    Santa Clarita Diet is great with a bold red, perhaps a Syrah or a Merlot. Santa Clarita Diet has two seasons on Netflix and ready for five main courses and a dessert buffet. Drew Barrymore plays a realtor who is turned corpse eater, which is exactly how you’ll feel after eating all that ham. Joel McHale also stars as husband, Joel, also realtor and man who hides the meat for safe keeping. We give Santa Clarita Diet two thumbs up. Wait, where are my thumbs?

    Peter Rabbit is a great family film to watch after filling up with snacks. We’re sure the children would enjoy this as well seeing as it’s the cutest, and I mean cutest movie out there. A wine pairing for this movie? Grab the hard stuff, grandpa might need it.

    The Mommy Gamers Easter Movies

    Hop is yet another great family movie to watch as the bunny ensues the comedy, causes trouble and helps bring the cute Easter goodness. While Peter Rabbit and Hop may take some of the family time for the day, we suggest another sparkling wine with this special viewing.

    Rise of the Guardians is probably the seasonal movie we will see since you could technically watch this one all year long. The movie has Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy come together to fight off darkness. How wonderful a Sauvignon would be with this film?

    Nailed It is a reality TV series on Netflix that shows elaborate desserts that have been made and the bakers attempt to make them, and the not so wonderful attempts at making them. Either way, bring the sister, brother, uncle, and whomever to watch this. It’s pretty good, and you can place bets within the family on who will win the grand prize of $10,000! A Rose would be fantastic with this show!

    The Mommy Gamers Brie Haddock Movies and Wine ;

    Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a holiday tradition, no matter the holiday you celebrate. I prefer the 1971 version, because I can, but I guess Johnny Depp and his version are alright too if you want to watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Either are good, depending on your preference. For both versions of the film, we chose a good Port to go with all the treats, or if you’re more like me, I’ll go for a slightly sweet Riesling.

    Stranger Things will turn things up and scare the jeebies out of you, or just put you on the edge of your seat. Stranger Things is an awesome show that focuses on a group of kids that are playing Dungeons and Dragons. Their game comes to life, sort of, and comes out to get them. They also learn that this case has been going on for years. The town comes together to help the city end the abduction Over the two seasons, you’ll have many “what the heck” moments. For this one, grab the scotch!

    The Mommy Gamers Easter Stranger Things Wine

    Want something newer?

    Jumanji with Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan play is this reboot with a twist! Not only is this a good movie for the whole family and full of adventure, we’ll reach for the box wine on this one so we can plop on the couch with a blanket.

    The Pitches are back in Pitch Perfect 3. These girls head overseas for a USO tour and hope to be picked to go on tour with a rapper. In a turn of events, Fat Amy finds her father, or he finds her and trouble begins. The girls come together and get out of it while supporting one another the biggest changes of their lives. We think a glass of champagne over here will help keep things classy.

    Pitch Perfect 3 Wine The Mommy Gamers Easter

    Daddy’s Home 2 has a great line up, from Matt Damon, John Cena, to Will Ferrell and Mel Gibson. These guys try to come together in a family vacation but it has its ups and downs. While I would love to sit here and tell you all about it, the movie is currently on Redbox for your viewing pleasure. We feel an Old Fashioned or a Gibson to go along with your viewing pleasure.

    Maybe you don’t want the beverage of choice to go with the movie, and that’s okay. Whatever your viewing style is, or genre, we’ve got it covered! Sit back, relax and take that well needed two-hour nap!

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    A Close Encounter with the Hello Kitty Food Truck…Part Two

    If you follow The Mommy Gamers, you may know that in April 2016 I sought out the Hello Kitty food truck in vain hopes of scoring cute snacks. Unfortunately, the truck was woefully equipped to deal with Chicagoland enthusiasm for adorable Japanese nonsense, and I failed. I get did a mug and a T-shirt (it should’ve said “I visited the Hello Kitty Cafe and all I got was…”).

    This year, the Hello Kitty Cafe came closer to me – specifically, to a mall about 10 minutes from my house. Now, I know this mall. My kid did Gymboree in this mall every week from age 1-3. I do about 90 percent of my retail therapy here. I buy all my books at the Barnes & Noble. I get my Nespresso refills here. Until recently when it closed, I got my regular chocolate Godiva reward here (a free truffle every month!). I occasionally get together with my girlfriends and my book club here.

    Yes, there is a young girl sitting behind the menu. I hope she got some good treats!

    Just last week I made my houseguest from Kansas go visit so she could bring me some Nando’s Peri-Peri. Oh, I also get my hair cut here. And when I have giant stress knots in my shoulder from livin’ the glamorous freelance writer lifestyle, I go to the Mario Tricoci in this mall so someone can (attempt to) knead them out.

    This is a definite advantage when scoping out Hello Kitty food trucks. When I heard it was going to be by the L.L. Bean, I knew exactly where to park when everyone else was complaining about no parking. So I arrived right at 10:30 and got into line immediately. I know this place so well I could tell without even looking that my wait would be shorter than last year.

    This year I was somewhat more prepared, although I still didn’t bring any sunblock (it’s October in the Chicago area, who knew – and it looked cloudy when I went to Zumba that morning). I also forgot a snack. I had a giant book. The fourth in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, to be exact, which I’m re-reading for an online book club. I had a water bottle because my kid was in Orlando riding Space Mountain without me, so he could not make a tea run. I had my workout bag, with a wrap inside in case it got cold.

    The people behind me clearly didn’t know what they were getting into. They’d just come from a dance class, following a slumber party that was making their two little girls very grumpy because they’d stayed up so late. After I told them about my four hours in line last year, they decided their kids wouldn’t be able to stay a half hour, let alone four, and left.

    The people ahead of me were a bit more knowledgeable, and had done this the previous year as well. Nevertheless, they disappeared somewhere between my arrival and the front of the line, and I ended up talking to a nice group of three people – one of whom had the exact same name as me.

    We all took lots of pictures and selfies. The point where you get to the menu sign is A Big Deal. Kids are running around, people are refreshing their pals in line with Starbucks coffees (there’s one right near where the truck was parked) and snacks (ironic, right?), and we’re getting to know our neighbors.

    Actually, come to think of it, when I stood in line to see Hillary Clinton this past Monday at a local bookstore, it was basically the same thing except that Peet’s Coffee came by every so often to offer free samples of cookies and brownies. Now that would have been a good marketing ploy for someone at the mall.

    Apparently I like standing in lines in order to spend money on stuff. Capitalism loves me.

    Anyway, it really didn’t feel that long before I got to the front, where all of us took pictures of the Hello Kitty truck’s tires – well, they were decorated with images of bows! It felt like a triumph, especially when the only thing they’d run out of were the small thermal water bottles (18 ounces). Everyone takes longer than they should at the front because they’re deciding, once they actually see the product in the window. Today, they were selling handmade bow headbands that were not listed on the menu.

    Sadly, I was assuming the t-shirts and mugs would be like last years, and they weren’t. So of course I had to buy one of everything. Although I never wore my t-shirt from last year, so I was able to resist that.

    Here’s a picture of my haul:

    A Quick Review

    So, I finally got to try the food. Actually, it’s pretty good. I don’t eat macarons that often so I’m not sure how they compare to the regular stuff, but they were pretty, tasty, and sweet, and you could even tell what the flavors were supposed to be. The mini-cakes were denser than I expected, rich and flavorful. The cookies – whoa, I forgot about the cookies! I know what I’m having for lunch…

    I bought a freaking $36 thermal mug! But it’s totally cute and I’m just going to put it somewhere prominent in my house and stare at it with adoration from time to time. And the regular mug, with the bow handle, is going to hold lots of chai tea this winter.

    Was it worth the money and effort? Well, I guess it depends on your point of view. I had been in Chinatown just the day before, and if all I’d wanted was cute Hello Kitty stuff I could have gotten it there at a fraction of the price. The best part of doing the Hello Kitty Cafe, I’ve learned, is the experience. Being there with other geeky people who are willing to stand in line for the privilege of buying overpriced merch is most of the fun.

    No, I don’t regret it. Yes, I’ll probably do it again. Yes, I’m probably a bit crazy. But if you’re not willing to do it, too – or at least laugh with me about my doing it and bring me lattes while I wait – you’re really not my people anyway.

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    Cooking with Dice: Making Delicious Food, RPG-Style

    Gamify your meal-planning!

    I love to cook. I get a chance to do it quite often because I’m a single mom and I can’t afford healthy, gourmet restaurant dinners every night. I can barely afford pizza once a week!

    I love gaming. That, I often have to skip because I also have to make money. My time is pretty much always taken up writing, trying to get more writing work, getting my school work done, and doing mom things.

    So – I don’t always have time to game. I have a new PS4 I’ve barely touched. I have Zelda: Breath of the Wild, sitting in my living room starting at me. I drop my kid off at D&D games and then go home to study. This doesn’t stop me from sneaking a few minutes of smartphone gaming at bedtime and Pokemon Go when I’m out and about. But it does mean my gaming time is cut pretty drastically. Every year my #1 New Year’s resolution is to Play More Games.

    So, what’s the compromise? This fall, I’m finding it in a little book called Cooking With Dice.

    Yes, it’s exactly what you think it is. A kitchen-based RPG. And it’s going to save my season!

    What is Cooking With Dice?

    This original game, the first in what will be a series, turns cooking into a game you can play alone or with the entire family.

    This past spring, Cooking with Dice was a Kickstarter project offered by the people behind Adventure Scents. Creator Jennifer Howlett says that the project, and her company, started as a way of gamifying cooking to make it more fun for her kids, and to help her family connect. “I think that gamifying something is a great way to drive learning and motivation,” she says. “I love watching TV cooking competition shows (it’s a guilty pleasure) and have always wished I could capture that adventure in my own kitchen. I feel like Cooking with Dice has helped me to experiment more with cooking and try out things I’d never done before.”

    She did plenty of research to create the recipes in the book, and utilized family members and volunteer play testers to complete the project.

    There’s a story. You’re an adventure-chef, journeying through a fantasy setting with different scenarios. Like Dungeons & Dragons, there are classes and races, and you roll your dice to introduce an element of chance into your endeavors. Actually, you start out at Level 1 as a Plongeur (dishwasher), and work your way up to Chef de Cuisine (head chef).

    And it’s fun. Using formulas and gaming tables rather than outright recipes, Cooking with Dice allows you to gamify different aspects of cooking. You can be more creative and flexible, and, as Howlett says in the book, add “your own personal magic.” This first installment of the series forgoes heat in favor of chemical changes caused by acid. Every food you create is a bit different, because the dice decide.

    The Good:

    Quickles (my version had rosemary)

    I’m not really an RPG gamer. I don’t have any patience to read the manuals, and no one has ever invited me into a D&D session that evolved past character creation. But Cooking with Dice is short and the instructions are clear and simple.

    But this concept has made my grocery shopping more interesting. I hate grocery stores. Now, though, I take my copy of this game, and a bag of dice, and I roll to see what ingredients I’m going to be buying. If you see a random person in the produce section trying to find a flat surface, then rolling a 20-sided die, that could be me. Or someone else playing the game.

    Also, this type of cooking is unfamiliar to me. I tend to be more hit or miss when it comes to dishes that require chemical reactions as the main form of food alteration. However, this is giving me a chance to try things I’ve never done. It’s fun, and getting kids on board is easy. The writing is engaging and witty, and the recipes and instruction are creative, well thought out and simple.

    I made pickles (see above)! In fact, I made quite a few items that are outside my comfort range, and my son helped. He hates pickles, but would eat the game’s Quickles all day. (Ours were cucumber seasoned with rosemary, based on our roll.)

    So, success! Howlett’s goal worked for me. I’m sold! And my son has never had so much fun cooking. I haven’t quite finished the book yet, but I’m getting there. This is a really good way to get your kids involved in the kitchen.

    The Bad:

    I can’t think of anything, except that failure can be discouraging, and I failed with the cheese the first time because I used pasteurized milk. I also failed with the Dragonfly Jam because I could not locate the right kind of pectin. But those things aren’t Cooking with Dice’s fault. The book clearly said I could not use pasteurized milk, and I could not locate the correct kind of pectin. Oops. Like I said, this is not an area of cuisine that I’m terribly familiar with.

    Ceviche Tomato Bombs (with shrimp)

    To be honest, it’s actually taking me a long time to get through the game because I’m always so busy, and finding other ways to use up ingredients I bought for the game is sometimes beyond my mental capability, even though they aren’t weird or anything. So my son and I have to make an extra effort to do the game justice, but Cooking with Dice gives our kitchen a much-needed culinary spark on nights we decide to play. It’s a good thing the game is so easy and flexible, because otherwise it’d just be another Crock-Pot dump meal for us.

    The Final Word:

    In a world that’s becoming more and more digitized, in which we have much less free time than we’d like, Cooking with Dice is a breath of fresh air. My son isn’t always a super-adventurous eater but he’ll try new foods, especially if we make them ourselves.

    Cooking with Dice lets us fit gaming into our busy lifestyle, and eat better food while we’re doing it. That’s a win-win in my book!

    Howlett and her 12-year-old daughter are working on a sequel for 2018, which would contain formulas that are easy for kids to make with minimal supervision. I’m on board with that!

    If you’d like more information on the book and Adventure Scents, visit www.cookingwithdice.com. Next month, Cooking with Dice: The Acid Test will be available via the website and through Amazon.com.

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    A Close Encounter with the Hello Kitty Cafe Food Truck

    Close, but no cookie (literally)…

    20160813_131601
    I know, everyone likes Hello Kitty. She’s adorable! Even so, apparently everyone still underestimates her popularity. Including the people who run the Hello Kitty Cafe’s food truck. Including hundreds of fans who showed up today to check it out. Including me.

    When I left my house around noon in hopes of catching the Hello Kitty truck, I really had only a vague idea what I was doing. I wasn’t exactly sure what kind of food would be offered, or how long I’d be there, or if there’d be a crowd. I brought my camera, some sunblock, and a copy of Quidditch Through the Ages (because I was playing in a Facebook-based quidditch trivia tournament at 5 p.m.). I was prepared to stand in line. Or so I thought.

    P1060486

    My view from the back of the line

    I’ve been a Hello Kitty fan since I was five or so – my dad would bring me Hello Kitty souvenirs when he went to Taipei, Taiwan starting in the mid-’70s. Today I still have my share of Hello Kitty merch – t-shirts, a keychain, a purse. It didn’t occur to me to wear any of it today, but lots of other people did. I saw t-shirts, mostly, but here and there you could see a clear kawaii influence. Parasols! Mini-bun hairstyles! And lots of geekery. Turns out, the Hello Kitty fan base (more adults than kids) also loves Pokemon, “Star Wars,” “Doctor Who,” and cute Chucks. Ah, my people.

    When I heard that the Hello Kitty food truck was coming to Oakbrook Mall in Oak Brook, Ill. this weekend, of course I planned my day around it. Not very well, as it turns out. I forgot the sunblock in the car, didn’t think to eat beforehand, and walked around the mall for like 30 minutes before I figured out where the truck was parked (in front of Urban Outfitters, duh). By the time I arrived, my phone battery was already depleted from trying to catch Pokemon – which I didn’t do much of, seeing as I was plumb out of Poké Balls. I debated for a few minutes as to whether or not I should bother to get in line, because the posted menu consisted of donuts, cakes, cookies, macarons, a water bottle, a mug, and t-shirts – and the donuts were already sold out. The offerings didn’t seem very filling, and the line was already pretty huge.

    P1060489

    This is the closest I got to the macarons, which are in the bowtie-shaped boxes

    I decided I’d get in for a few minutes and see how fast it moved. I was right behind the mom of a little girl in blonde pigtails who declared passionately, when asked if she was sure she wanted to do this, “I’ve been waiting for this my WHOLE LIFE!” It wasn’t too bad, so I stayed – but it got worse. I had time to re-read Quidditch Through the Ages and memorize the entire list of fouls and the names of the 13 English teams. Then I had time to memorize the entire list of broom games of the wizarding world that were precursors to quidditch. Then I was able to memorize the entire lineup of European quidditch teams. Then I memorized the names of everyone who had ever played quidditch. Then I memorized the length and width of the quidditch field, and the names and previous names of all the positions of all the players, then the history of the Golden Snitch (it was introduced in 1269). And then I was sick of quidditch.

    So I made friends with a mom and seven-year-old daughter who told me all about their charm necklaces and gave me a catalog. I petted two tiny puppies in line with me, one of which was wearing a Hello Kitty harness. I listened to the Harry Potter conversation of the people who were right behind me until they gave up. I admired someone’s “Doctor Who” bag, which had Tardises (Tardisi?) on the outside and cartoon Doctors along the inside lining. I spotted some friends who had been in line since 9:30 a.m. And then I got thirsty. Everyone in line had someone else with them who was passing them drinks from Argo Tea, except me. At one point, we passed waters down the line to someone, and I wasn’t the only one tempted to just grab the cup and drink it myself. So many people around me were sucking down bubble teas that I started brainstorming ideas of how to get myself one (Taskrabbit? Paying the seven-year-old girl to do it? Bribing someone in line for their drink?). In the end, the mom and daughter offered to save my place, and in return I got them bubble tea and water. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers, saving those of us who are way unprepared.

    I managed to not take any pictures of people wearing cool things, but I did get a picture of a tiny puppy in line!

    I managed to not take any pictures of people wearing cool things, but I did get a picture of a tiny puppy in line, being petted by my seven-year-old friend

    I snaked my way through three sets of zig-zagging line separators designed to contain us as we slowly got closer to the pink food truck. At some point I figured I was in it for the long haul because I had already been in line for two and a half hours. I was maybe 40 minutes from the end when the macarons ran out. The truck employees first passed word back that three boxes only were left.  I said, optimistically, “Well, as long as there are still some on display at the front of the truck, there are still more left, right?” At which point a person in the truck took down all the boxes of macarons at the front of the truck, and my new mom and daughter friend gave up and went to go get macarons at Godiva instead. I was about 20 minutes from the end when the cookies ran out. There was no food left, and my Facebook-based quidditch tournament was about to start.

    Hell hath no fury like a crowd deprived of Hello Kitty sweets. A bunch of people left disgusted, and others went up to the truck and asked about the situation – could the people who were left at least get the bags (free with a $25 food purchase) for standing in line for four hours with nothing to show for it? It’s my understanding that the employees called in, but were not allowed to do anything for anyone. More rumors, naturally, ran rampant – there were no mugs left, they were going to stop selling after another 15 minutes so they’d still have merch left for tomorrow, that sort of thing.

    My phone, an ancient Samsung Galaxy S4, had been turned off early so I’d have battery power for the quidditch tournament, should I still be there at 5 p.m. I was. I was the first on my team to play (as Keeper). It was Slytherin vs. Hufflepuff (I’m a Puff). The question that was asked…was NOT IN QUIDDITCH THROUGH THE AGES. It never is, especially when I’ve spent the last three hours in line memorizing every fact about quidditch in the entire freaking book. I answered it correctly, immediately, probably because the answer had come up in a study session with my fellow Puffs at some points (yay me). Then the Slytherin Seeker caught the Snitch. Tournament lasted 3.5 seconds, score 100-10, which ties the shortest Quidditch game on record. A fact I know because I spent three hours memorizing every fact about Quidditch in the entire freaking book.

    20160813_201732Meanwhile, in the line, things had reverted to controlled chaos. The line seemed superfluous, as the truck had completely closed down and the workers were selling out of a tent next to it, as fast as they could. Some people  were convinced several lines were now being formed, and yelled at the mall security to stop letting people buy over those of us who’d been standing in line for four hours. There were 50 (or was it 15?) mugs left, and the free bags were long gone too. The rest of us in line had to have SOMETHING to gripe about, so we complained about how long people were taking to decide on which style of t-shirt to get, because after four hours in line shouldn’t you pretty much already know? A bunch of people also started getting on the Facebook page to complain.

    In the end, I left with a mug, a $25 t-shirt, and two pins. The pin is my badge for sticking it out. I wasn’t even planning to buy the shirt, but, well…there weren’t any cookies.

    Curses, Hello Kitty Cafe food truck – turns out, the people in charge were just about as unprepared as I was. We suburban Chicagoans (and some Wisconsinites, and some Hoosiers too) are a tetchy lot, and we don’t like when people run out of food. If I were a real wizard, I’d find a curse and hex the people in charge (okay, maybe not, since I’m a Hufflepuff). As it is, I don’t actually believe in magic, so I’m going to sit here drinking tea out of my new Hello Kitty mug, wearing the hell out of my new pink t-shirt, and wondering if Hello Kitty cookies are really just that good. I may never know.

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    Namco’s Level 257 Goes Beyond the Kill Screen

    “Fun” Dining for Classic Game Lovers

    Level257-play-500x300
    Those of us in the Chicago area, gamers or not, have been excited about the possibilities of Level 257 for some time now. The construction has been hard to miss, if you go out to Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg with any regularity. Level 257, on the side of the mall that already sports Sears and Rainforest Café, is a sprawling and sleek black matte storefront housing a bowling alley, a small but well-stocked arcade, surprisingly well-thought-out eats, and a great Pac-Man theme. It’s now in its soft opening stage.

    Because it still isn’t “officially” open, managers and wait staff were totally excited to offer up all kinds of information about this place. Let’s be clear.  While Level 257 is family-friendly, it’s truly a place for adults. Specifically, it’s for people like me. People who grew up with games, and who love them – but who usually act like grown-ups now and are interested in enjoying real food and handcrafted cocktails in a fine-dining environment.

    Pac-Man Fever

    level257alley

    Here, you can see some of the Pac-Man detail in one of the bowling lanes.

    Oh sure, there’s a geeky undertow to this place. The Lost and Found arcade lounge has all the cool games I played as a kid – including, and I love this part – Dragon’s Lair, which I remember so well because of all the hype when it was released (back then, it cost two tokens per game so I never got too far into the story).  Frogger, Defender, Centipede, Space Invaders, air hockey, Mario Kart, basketball, and many more, are all there, all restored perfectly, available as standing arcade games and installed flat into wooden tables with booth seating. A library with tabletop games is also available, if you don’t want to shell out $15 for 60 minutes of gameplay (other time increments are available also). The arcade also includes “battle pods” – I’m not sure if this is the official name, but that’s what David Bishop, Chief Pac-Man Evangelist, called them when he visited our table, so I’m repeating it. They’re basically step-inside games with a giant concave screen that surrounds and immerses you. I absolutely loved it, even though I left the pod with vertigo. I’m assured by the staff that these pods came off the assembly line pretty much the week previous, and are currently the only ones outside of Japan.

    There’s also a giant Pac-Man game, one of the largest in the world, and an arcade machine that has been set up to start Pac-Man at Level 255 – just before the kill screen. And, if you look closer at the décor of Level 257, which was unfinished at the time of my visit, you’ll see lots of great Pac-Man-inspired detail as well. For example, in the bowling alley there are mirrored disco balls, one of which is painted yellow to invoke our pellet-eating friend. Yellow lines and tiny Pac-Man shapes are found everywhere. One temporary wall was covered with Level 256 kill screen graphics. And it isn’t just the décor that’s geeky, either. If you ask around, you might find a server who holds something like 22 world gaming records.

    The Noms

    But all this is all almost an aside. The fact is, Level 257 is a theme restaurant created to leverage Namco’s high-profile properties. And the dining here is the focus. The managers here, who have been working on putting Level 257 together for four and a half years, looked at places like Main Event and Dave & Busters and decided they wanted to target an older, more upscale clientele. As a result, they went all out in terms of the food. Chefs from all around the world work here – yes, there’s sushi. The steaks are USDA Prime, the food is organically sourced, the water is filtered on site (both still and sparkling are complimentary), the pizza is tossed within sight of diners, the cocktails are handcrafted on site, and almost everything is made from scratch, with a few exceptions.

    Power Pellets - beignets with bittersweet chocolate filling and Pop Rocks on top.

    Chocolate Power Pellets – beignets with projectile bittersweet chocolate filling and Pop Rocks on top.

    The menu’s most popular dishes include lobster mac and cheese, seared trout, “Filet Mig-nom” and the bacon apple pork chop. Appetizers include homemade Italian gnocchi and Tiki Rumaki, bacon-wrapped beef and pork meatballs with pepper jack cheese and a pineapple jalapeno glaze. And, please save room for dessert because the Chocolate Power Pellets are my favorite new thing ever. They’re described as “bittersweet chocolate filled doughnut holes, coffee anglaise, powdered sugar” but this does not adequately describe them at all. You have to eat them in one bite; cut them, and the chocolate squirts out at you like blood from a particularly gory horror film. That’s actually what I thought of. And they’re topped with Pop Rocks.

    Coming Up

    If the Level 257 concept works in Schaumburg (and there were over 400 reservations on the Friday night that I went, cluelessly not making advance plans and causing us to get to know the gaming lounge quite well for an hour before our table was ready), another Level 257 will eventually open in London. The Schaumburg location will celebrate a ribbon-cutting and grand opening on April 25 and will be the headquarters of Pac-Man’s 35th anniversary sometime around May 23; rumors abound of appearances by championship Bears players and a person who has actually beat Pac-Man’s highest level.

    Quick Verdict

    I loved the place more than my kid, who remains a staunch Main Event fan – although here the gaming room isn’t much smaller, and it’s packed with actual games rather than ticket-spewing contraptions. The food was excellent, with entrees in the $20-$30 range and desserts between $6-$8 . The service was very attentive – probably more than will be the norm once the kinks are worked out. We had maybe three people refreshing our drinks, two of which took our order, and we had at least two others come by to check upon our service, one of whom showed up even before we’d taken a bite. The service overlapped a bit, but it was nice of them to come and talk to us about the place and its vision.

    The games were all working well and the battle pods were fantastic. Bowling costs $40 a game after 5 p.m., so we skipped that, as there was a waiting list anyway. If you like classic games and enjoy fine dining, I’d definitely recommend a stop here. Check it out at www.level257.com.

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    I Ain’t Scared of no Ghost…Busters Doughnut!

    Donughts Make Me Feel Good

    What do you get when Krispy Kreme and Sony Pictures get together to celebrate the Blu-Ray release of the 30th anniversary edition of Ghostbusters? Ectoplasm on your doughnuts! Or if you want to be accurate, Psychomagnotheric Slime. The second version allows pastry lovers to bite into a delicious cream filled icing covered Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, complete with a sugar hat.

    We are truly excited to collaborate with Sony Pictures in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the iconic ‘Ghostbusters’ brand, said Dwayne Chambers, Krispy Kreme’s chief marketing and innovations officer. And we are delighted to bring our fans two delicious, limited-edition treats that are as unique, creative and joyful as this beloved film franchise.”

    Hop into your Ecto 1 from Sept. 29 through Oct. 31 and visit U.S. and Canada Krispy Kreme locations, while supplies last. If you’re worried they may sell out before you can get to them, customers can pre-order five dozen or more at their local store beginning Tuesday.

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    Ink Whiskey’s Entertainment Flask Review

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    The Entertainment Flask – What is it?

    So a couple of weeks ago at C2E2, the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, I had a great time checking out interesting geekery of all kinds – the cosplay vendors alone were worth the price of admission. As always, I spent way too much money on Thor t-shirts, Totoro decals and comic books. But my very favorite item that I picked up there is the Entertainment Flask from Ink Whiskey. The name’s not so catchy, but come on, look at the thing. It’s the video game-inspired accessory every drunk needs! Or maybe it’s the drinking-inspired accessory that every gamer needs! I’m not sure yet.

    inkwhiskeyzeldaThe Concealable Entertainment Flask is a container for your grown-up drinks that’s been molded to look like an original Nintendo Entertainment System 8-bit game. It’s made from hard plastic with a silicone topper. The labels on the flasks are parodies of old-school NES games – they include Super Bar-Hop Bros., Drunk Hunt, Castlevodka, Metal Beer and The Legend of Drink (which, at the convention, was available in gold, but that version is no longer sold on the Ink Whiskey website so you’re SOL on that one).

    Do they really perform as advertised?

    inkwhiskey2There’s minimal information about these flasks on the website. My recollection from talking to the guys at the Ink Whiskey booth is that they hold something like 4.3 ounces, which is enough to get you buzzed if you’re drinking high-proof alcohol. I have to admit I haven’t tried that yet – I don’t drink a lot, and when I do, it’s mostly Moscato and sangria or craft beer. So basically, my flask is usually filled with water and accompanies me to my kids’ soccer games. I know, my life is pretty G-rated.

    I have no real complaint about utility – the flask appears sturdy and the label seems fairly water-resistant, although it has started to show small signs of wear at the crease after a few days trapped in my purse.  Also, the location of the cap that seals the flask is right where the grip portion on the top left of an NES cartridge is located. That’s a good place, as the flatness of the stopper allows you to easily grip it and pull it out to access your beverage. However, if you’re actually drinking from the flask it’s a bit awkward because once you pull the cap out you’ve got two solid pieces of plastic with a “u”-shape in between them, where you’re expected to put your mouth to drink. It takes a little practice to do without spilling. Or maybe my mouth is too small.

    Is there anything else I need to know?

    inkwhiskey3

    I left the cap slightly loose so you can tell which is the flask, and which is the game.

    The main attraction with these flasks is the coolness factor. They aren’t exact in every detail, but they’re pretty close, and the differences aren’t obvious. They’re actually just slightly thicker than a real NES cartridge (I’m including here an image of one of my real NES cartridges with the one I purchased). The flasks even still fit in those black sleeves that came with the games – just a bit more tightly, though.

    Final Thoughts

    I basically needed a flask like I needed to see another rape in “The Game of Thrones.” I already have a TARDIS one and a Hogwarts one and I don’t even drink. Well, not much. Certainly not enough to want to hide alcohol in an old-school video game cartridge. But I couldn’t resist this one, and I have no regrets in buying it. One of these days I might even put something harder than water in it…

    Grab yours from the www.inkwhiskey.com website for $20.

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    Food & Drink, Reviews
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