Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ate my Way through Chicago

I'm back from the Windy City and had an absolute blast. Kendall and I had such a good visit with Mary, Jonathan, Chris, Sarah, Al and all the new faces along the way! Chicago's weather was beautiful so we spent as much time outside as possible. And we also took advantage of the many tastes of the city.

Our flight landed on Saturday and after dropping our bags, we were on our way to meet my cousin, Jonathan and his husband, Chris, downtown. Once there, we decided to try Hot Woks Cool Sushi, almost right across from the Art Institute of Chicago. Now, Chicago's pride in Barack Obama is unquestioned and only in this city could you find a sushi roll dedicated to our current president! Chris and Mary showed their support and ordered the 10-piece plate. A mound of red spangled sushi topped with the sweetest little American flag arrived. I tried one of Mary's rolls, which was a lovely combonation of flavors and textures- smooth, creamy, salty, crispy. I ordered the Panang Noodles which were smothered in a sweet, savory and velvety sauce, with just the right amount of spice.

After filling our bellies, we headed into the Art Institute to check out their new Modern Art wing. Every year, we make a pilgrimage to the institute and I am always floored by the variety and quality of the art they bring in. The new wing is beautiful, makes a great use of natural light. The space feels very open so your mind can wander amongst the abstract techniques and ideas. As always, I was impressed by the number and variety of great works they were able to bring in.

That night, we stumbled upon Twist Tapas. We shared sangria, calamari, cheese, bread, asparagus, scallops, mushrooms, shrimp, ahi tuna and more. We also shared memories, stories and a lot of laughs. It was time for Chris and Jonathan to go home, so after a sad goodbye, we hit up the store for a few bottles of good French wine to be enjoyed at home. We went with a 2005 Bordeaux (always a good bet) and a Boujelais (2006 I think?).

Sunday, we headed out for the Garfield Park Conservatory. As we switched trains, we caught a quick bite at Wow Bao. Mary and Kendall had the hot buns, which I tasted, and I had dumplings and rice, and we all left happy. The buns are soft and filled with a moist filling of your choice, from edamame to chicken to pork.

The conservatory was beautiful. It's hard to believe that it's FREE. It is filled with so many varieties of flowers, trees, and fauna. We had a great time taking photos, enjoying some kids wandering around, and walking amongst the greenery. I witnessed a careless patron groping and then plucking a banana off a tree... after the Conservatory had made such an effort to hang cute and witty little cards all over the place!

On the way home, we stopped by the grocery store and picked up some cheese for homemade pizza, some salad fixings, and some berries and yogurt for dessert. Yum! We made guacamole and margaritas while the dough rose and enjoyed wine and pizza later. The pizza was from the recipe I posted previously and the guacamole was a collaborative effort. Many cooks tasted and re-tasted to tweak the lime and salt. Mary seriously impressed with her fine herb chopping skills-- the cilantro evenly flecked the whole bowl of dip.

On Monday, we walked around Mary's new neighborhood. It is filled with lots of cute shops, handy banks and dry cleaners, and many little restaurants and bistros. We ducked into Paper Boy to check out their hip cards, stationery and gifts. Imagine my delight when they were having a "Stuff This Bag for $10" sale! I bought lots and lots of holiday cards, which I am frighteningly excited about. I have issues about holiday cards... I want something cute and non-religous, but cannot justify paying a lot for something that will become part of a tangled mass and thrown out (or RECYCLED) within weeks. Now I have the best of both worlds! Start checking your mailboxes in early Decemeber, y'all!

After that, it was time for our much-anticipated trip to Tre Kronor, a little Swedish kitchen. Mary introduced us in January and we fell in love with their French Onion soup. It is by far the best I've ever tasted. The soupcrock is sealed with creamy cheese, revealing a rich broth, finely chopped onions and a mix of wheat and rye bread croutons. I truly believe I could eat a bowl with every meal and never get tired of it. We also enjoyed the spinach salad and chicken salad sandwich. I'm hoping to check out the dinner menu on our next visit. It's going to be featured on the Food Network in September, so tune in to see lots of shots of their yummy food.

After lunch, we took a stroll along the shores of Lake Michigan. We sat on a bench by the marina and watched boats and ducks bob in the water. The park started to enjoy heavier use as we headed back to our bus stop. It was great to see so many people out and actively enjoying the weather and park! Runners, dogwalkers, bikers and rollerbladers all shared the trail. We tried to keep out of their way as we made our way to happy hour.

We stopped by another neighborhood stop, Joey's Brickhouse. We ordered some deep-fried appetizers while enjoying half-price beers. The patio was lovely and allowed for people watching. The fries had a sweet and savory seasoning and the calamari had what I'm guessing is a flour-and-spice coating, as opposed to a batter coating.

After that, we headed home to enjoy some more margaritas, guac, leftover pizza, wine and cards. Don't mean to brag, but it turns out I am a card-shark. Just sayin'.

I always have so much fun in Chicago and with Mary. The city boasts some seriously great food and I look forward to returning and trying some more great grub.

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