OyChicago articles

8 Questions for Annice Moses and Mike Rosenthal: Urban Renewers, Herbivores, Mini-Van Drivers

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01/13/2009

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Annice Moses and Michael Rosenthal, with help from friends and neighbors, took Englewood teenagers on a trip to Washington D.C. There they met with some of the nation's leaders and saw the sights. 

Some people talk about making the world a better place. Other people just do it, in their own unassuming way. For Annice Moses and Mike Rosenthal, this means taking I-94 from their home in Glencoe and investing their time, hearts and money in their adopted community, Englewood. In a neighborhood where liquor stores double as food stores and fresh produce is scarce, Mike’s passion is the community garden. And last March, inspired by a story in  People magazine, Annice rounded up 30 high school kids – most of whom had never left Englewood – and boarded a plane to DC on a whirlwind advocacy mission. Three days later, Annice and Mike flew home with 30 tired teens who now understood that some people talk about making the world a better place, and others just do it.

So whether you put your passions to action, your dogs walk you, or you just wish for a good night’s sleep, Annice Moses and Mike Rosenthal are Jews You Should Know.

1. What do you love about what you do?
Annice: I have a master’s in counseling and used to work with teens at Response Center. After our first son was born, I decided to be a stay-at-home mom. Our brood has now grown to include – in order of acquisition: Sidney Oy (our yellow lab/Weimaraner mix), Milo (our black lab), BJ (age 7), Ryder (age 5), and Phoenix (age 3). In the spring, we are adopting a daughter from Ethiopia. (And how do the boys feel about that? They vacillate between being excited and suggesting we name her Poo Poo Head, depending on the day.) This is what I’ve always wanted – a big family, lots of noise and chaos, volunteer time, and the opportunity to infuse hippie, vegetarian, liberal views on unsuspecting dependents.
Mike: I help run Rosenthal Manufacturing, my family's business. As an engineer, I design and build custom machinery from start to finish. There is satisfaction in seeing something on paper come to life and be useful for someone else. And I love the flexibility it gives me to pursue my other passions – my family, biking, hiking, nonprofit work like Imagine Englewood If.
Annice: In other words, our sons love playing in piles of dirt. Whether that dirt is in our suburban backyard or in the serenity of the Englewood community garden, the boys don’t notice and don’t care. And we love that. Walking into the Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC, a teen from Englewood told me he had never met a Jew besides “that guy on South Park.” I was like, that’s not a guy – that’s a cartoon. Walking out of the Holocaust Museum, the teens were so angered by the senseless persecution Jews faced because they were different, and it was an experience they, as African-Americans, could relate to.  That’s powerful, too.

2. What is your favorite blog or website?
Annice: Mike says he’s a “Facebook widower” if that gives you a clue.  All 266 of my bestest friends ever are on there. Needless to say, Mike is not my Facebook friend.
Mike: Ha’aretz – my favorite news source. It's how I look up stuff about Israel.

3. If time and money were limitless, where would you travel?
Annice: Australia, if for nothing else, to be surrounded by that excellent accent all day (although as a vegetarian, the food options might be a slim). Mike wanted to honeymoon in Africa, but at the time I was afraid to camp out with wild animals – I'm much more of a trooper these days.
Mike: I would take my family on a boat trip up the Amazon River – one of the last places untouched by human hands.

4. If a movie was made about your life, who would play you?
Annice: Lauren Ambrose (Claire from  Six Feet Under ).
Mike: Benji – the dog.
Annice: He says it’s because he’s soft and cuddly, but in reality, Benji is the only pop culture icon Mike can name.

5. If you could have a meal with any two people, living or dead, famous or not, who would they be? Where would you eat or what would you serve?
Annice: It’s hard to top the backyard barbeque when we first met each other and, of course, both opted for the veggie burger. We never let the fact that I was an ETHS grad and he was a New Trier grad get in our way.
Mike: Okay, we admit, we’re just stumped by this question.

6. What's your idea of the perfect day?
Annice: Waking up from a good night’s sleep, mint-green tea in my cup, my family buzzing around me happily, getting in a workout and some semi-trashy reality TV after the kids are sleeping, a bath and to bed! (So maybe a beer or glass of wine is in there somewhere.)
Mike: Waking up from a good night’s sleep, going on a family adventure where we all learn something new, a peaceful hike, and a nice chocolate dessert followed by dinner (dessert is always better when it's first) where no one complains about what they are eating and everyone goes to bed without a fuss.

7. What job would you have had if not the one you have now?
Mike:  A teacher or a community organizer. I like the idea of empowering people to make their lives better.
Annice: Running an overnight camp would be awesome, living there year-round with our kids, being a perpetual teenager as my official job.

8. What's your favorite Jewish thing to do in Chicago? In other words, how do you Jew?
Mike: Building a sukkah in our yard every year.
Annice: Two years ago, Mike slept overnight with the boys in the sukkah and ended up with walking pneumonia. So now we limit our sukkah-dwelling activities to my favorite Jewish thing to do in Chicago: eat, eat and more eat.

All Thaied Up

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01/13/2009

Thalia Spice
833 W. Chicago
www.thaliaspice.com

Rating: Three and a half stars

StarStacey StarStacey StarStacey StarStaceyHalf

Thalia Spice

Thalia Spice—adding a touch of class to Thai food

The old Sunday night take-out standby for members of the tribe used to be Chinese. I myself have nothing but fond memories of the Sunday nights of my childhood: waiting to watch whatever was the special Sunday Night Movie on network TV as my mom arranged the signature red and white cylinders and white trapezoidal boxes on wooden trays. We got to eat on television trays and drink pop instead of milk—Sunday nights were special.

The menu was comforting and always from a minimal rotation of favorite dishes. Egg rolls, bbq pork, won ton soup for the kids and hot and sour soup for the grownups. Sweet and sour chicken, in its reddish brown sauce, filled with sweet chunks of canned pineapple, the occasional maraschino cherry, and crisply fried pieces of chicken. Mongolian beef, moo shu pork, cashew chicken. Egg foo young for dad. Fried rice. Almond cookies if we were feeling particularly festive. That is pretty much it. And frankly, until the late 1980s, that was pretty much it for Asian food in general.

When I saw the sushi display at a teenage house party in the movie Valley Girl, I had never heard of it before. But by the time Molly Ringwald tucked into her California roll at lunchtime in The Breakfast Club, sushi was making its way into regular rotation. Not for Sunday night delivery, it rarely travels well, but certainly it became part of our dining with fair consistency. The 1990s brought an Asian explosion here in Chicago, and our palates followed right along. Mongolian BBQ, Korean kim chee, Vietnamese Pho, even regional Chinese cuisine which is far more subtly nuanced than the fried and sticky sweet dishes of my childhood. But nothing made a dent in the delivery department.

Until Thai food came along.

The key to Sunday night dinner is the perfect combination of ease, affordability and comfort. And Thai food, with its soothing noodles, warming soups and curries, and wide variety of appetizers fits the bill perfectly. It doesn’t replace the nostalgia I have for those Sunday night Chinese dinners, but these days I’m far more likely to spend my Sunday nights with a cucumber salad and pad see ew with chicken.

I had always relegated Thai food into that sort of casual Sunday night take-out noodle shop mode, and never really thought much about it. Until I dined at Thalia Spice, a high-end restaurant at Chicago and Green that has introduced me to a whole different side of Thai.

The restaurant is separated into two rooms, and the décor lacks the usual kitsch, opting instead for simple surroundings. The owner, Anna, is likely to be the one greeting you at the door, and she is a dynamo in a tiny package, assuring you that anything you need or want will be taken care of.

I have eaten at Thalia Spice several times, and the service is always impeccable, the food delicious, and the prices very affordable.

Some highlights for me:

The Volcano soup (which they always obligingly make for me with chicken instead of seafood) is creamy and tart with a gentle back of the throat heat and perfect seasoning.  A green papaya salad will change your thoughts about papaya forever, and the banana blossom salad is a totally unique taste sensation that is worth checking out. While I am usually not one for wraps and rolls as I am not much of a raw fish girl, I changed my mind when Anna insisted I try a sweet potato roll…the combination of seasoned rice and soft sweet potato, wrapped in seaweed and topped with a creamy sauce made a believer out of me. The Sake bbq ribs are a more sophisticated version of the bbq pork from my childhood, and they even have egg rolls and gyoza if you can’t survive without dumplings and little crispy things before your meal.

Standard Thai fare is elevated here, the noodles perfectly cooked and seasoned, everything impeccably fresh. But as satisfying as the basics are, I highly recommend branching out. The Yaya Noodles, spinach noodles stir fried with veggies and your choice of meat, are a new favorite vying for my attention with my beloved pad see ew. And the honey roasted duck is a celebration. I’m not much of a curry fan, but my friends who are swear by all of Thalia’s versions. And I dare you to be able to tell me which of the five fried rice versions is your favorite. And in case you have a dining companion who isn’t feeling much like Thai, they also have a full selection of sushi and sashimi with some very inventive rolls.

They do a great lunch special, affordable and quick; enough food to keep you going but not make you a nap when you get back to work.

And yes. They do take out and delivery, in case you want to check them out some Sunday night.

Yours in good taste,
Stacey

www.staceyballis.com

Oy38Nosh black pepper

Use Korean Black Garlic to add some Asian flare to your dishes

NOSH of the week: Staying in the Asian mode, my new favorite ingredient...Korean Black Garlic. These sweet fermented cloves taste like a combination of fig, roasted garlic, and balsamic vinegar, and have the texture of dried dates. I love them on soft cheeses like chevre or brie, chopped fine into dips like tapenade for a little something special, and blended into butter with salt and pepper that I then put under the skin of a chicken before I roast it. www.blackgarlic.com

NOSH food read of the week:  The Whole World Over  by Julia Glass

The Pow! ep

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le Bam’s DIY CD Release
01/13/2009

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The le Bam girls 

I invited Libby, Stef and the rest of the Oy! team to my band’s CD release show this coming weekend and the next thing I knew they wanted me to write a story about releasing a record. Well, see the thing is…it is not really a CD release, at least not by traditional standards: we haven’t signed a record deal, we’re not on a major — or any — label. Like many people, we like writing music and because of our access to technology and rubber stamps, my BFF Erin (the other half of le Bam) were able to record an ep of six of our favorite songs — poppy, tongue-in-cheek, melodic works of (he)art. We embraced every DIY idea that came to mind and are having our CD release party this Saturday.

We le Bam girls have a little experience in trying to break into the music industry. It is hard and has nothing to do with how talented you are. Well, it helps to be talented, but you also have to know the right people and be blessed with a little luck. We’ve played in a few different bands together over the past nine years, the last of which, mabel, was pretty serious. For four years, we wrote songs, played shows, networked, sent out press kits, went on tour and finally felt like we were getting our name out there. In the end, like so many other groups, inner band drama got the best of us and we broke up. (Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, we weren’t big enough to be profiled by VH1’s ‘Behind the Music’.)

Erin and I wanted to keep writing songs together but instead of trying to “make it,” our mantra became “let’s write music because it’s fun and we love it.” So we started doing that and recruited Larry the Laptop (aka Erin’s powerbook) so we could have drum, bass, and other electronic elements in our songs. We were having fun, loving our new songs, and we had the most reliable bassist and drummer two girls could ask for!

We both love recording (find me a musician who doesn’t), so we decided to record a few of our favorite songs written in the past year or so. We chose six and turned Erin’s living room into our own cozy (if drafty) recording studio. Erin played sound engineer and I played the newbie singer who never recorded vox before. She played her keyboards. I played my electric cello. She sang. I sang. We tweaked Larry’s parts. We mixed. We listened. A lot. It was the most fun I’ve had for awhile. We didn’t start out thinking we’d have a CD release show at all, but then we surprised ourselves by actually liking what we recorded.

We bought recycled cardboard sleeves and pooled our selection of stamping gear. Crafting nights galore as we stamped and stenciled ‘le Bam’ on the front and ‘pow!’ on the back of all the sleeves. The CD labels have a sweet little stamped message for each listener. Even the lyrics are hand written and slide out of the sleeve for your reading pleasure.

Oy38Feature1

Pow!

I was telling my mom about the CD awhile back and she asked me what the songs were about. In explaining them to her I realized that among other things, the central themes seem to focus on relationships, sex and apathy. For example:

Track One: Whiskey and Water. A celebration of ‘the crush’ – really, it is an artform.

Track Two: Worst Best I Ever Had. Ever had a one-night stand that lasted three months? Whoops.

Track Three: 3-14-06.  Becoming frustrated about being apathetic – a contradiction in song.

Track Four: The Lonely Star. The misunderstood outcast of our solar system gets revenge.

Track Five: The Wedding. Don’t be fooled, the first line is “death is a funny thing.”

Track Six: The Unfortunate Love Song. We end on a happy note – giving in to falling in love with someone you desperately tried not to fall in love with.

So now we have a CD and we want to share it with our friends and fans and possibly a few select people in the actual music industry. But I can’t really tell you about releasing a CD in the typical way where you have a label and a manager and a producer and a lawyer and all of that. We are being very bohemian about the release of our le Bam ep.

So what are we going to do with it? We are going to send it to a few people here and there and continue to write and play the music we love. Hopefully our little beloved DIY album will be enjoyed by other people — maybe even people we’re not related to and who don’t live with us.

If you come to the show on Saturday, it will be the usual le Bam spectacle featuring all the songs on the CD as well as a few that we didn’t record – the vampire song (there is screaming) and black is the new black (there is swearing) to name a couple crowd favorites – and of course, matching outfits. Hope to see you there.

le Bam CD Release Show - Pow!
Saturday, January 17, 2009 at 9:00 p.m.
Silvie's Lounge, 1902 Irving Park Rd - Chicago, IL
Free cd to the first five le Bam fans.

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