Thursday, April 30, 2009

More on Chicago

Our weekend in Chicago was fabulous. The weather was glorious, except when it was pouring with rain! The people were friendly, the city was clean, the public transportation excellent, it wasn't too expensive, and the food... sometimes I felt like all we did was walk, gawk at the beautiful architecture, and eat wonderful food.

We stayed at the adorable Drake Hotel, which was recently refurbished with a huge luxurious bathroom. Also, happened to be ACROSS THE STREET from the building where our friend and former nanny Jessica lives. She is there going to law school. She hadn't changed much - she was still bubbly and enthusiastic and brainy, and so happy that we were in her new city. She took us on a brief walking tour, and then we went to AVEC. The wait was about an hour, but we spent that time talking and enjoying a new Portuguese wine.

The restaurant is small and narrow, with a kitchen smaller than my own. We ordered six plates, and every dish was original and delicious. There was a local tossed salad with pickled onion-hazelnut oil vinaigrette, a brandade - a little pot of butter and fish and potatoes that was transformed into a warm, creamy spread for toast, a house-made sausage served with potatoes, onions, and big sprigs of fresh cilantro, a flat bread oozing with taleggio cheese and truffle oil, prosciutto-wrapped sausage stuffed dates, and my favorite - a homemade twisted pasta with lamb shoulder, dry crumbly cheese, and preserved lemons. Oh, we polished off a bottle of another new and wonderful Portuguese wine.

The next day Jessica gamely stood in line with us again at Hot Doug's, a place we'd seen on Anthony Bourdain's show. Its rather embarrassing how long we stood in line, even when it rained and we had no umbrellas, just for hot dogs. Hot dogs and all kinds of inventive housemade sausages. And the promise of french fries, made with duck fat. Doug himself took our order, and he was so personable, and obviously loved what he did and that you had stood in line so long for his creations. (Other staff members could be heard to mutter, "Raining again? Good, I hope they ALL GO HOME!") The fries were wonderful, not to die for, but so delicious with flakey sea salt, and I ate my whole basket.

This is the mural in the bathroom there:

We also ate at Cafe Iberico, a Spanish tapas bar at Jessica's suggestion (really good sangria - fruity and NOT syrupy). We stopped in a local spot to get a bite before we saw BLUE MAN GROUP (loved them), and I got "Chili 5 Ways" as in chili, on spaghetti, with cheese, beans, and onions, and Anthony got the largest gyro known to man. We walked through two neighborhoods from there to Cafe Lula. I read a lot of reviews on this place, but when I read the review by Ira Glass (!) I knew I had to eat there. No matter what that man says, he makes his subject so engaging I am buying it, even if its in print. I even like his pledge drive spots, and I HATE the pledge drive.

Ahem, pardon that digression! Cafe Lula was great, small and local. We ordered a cheese plate that had just 2 cheeses, and the better of the two cheeses came in two wafer thin slices, but it was so intense and flavorful I mostly forgave their stinginess. We loved our wine from Argentina, and had an amazing pasta with butter, cinnamon, garlic, and feta cheese. Really inventive and yummy.

Anthony was sad to see me go - he stayed there all week for training - and I was sad to leave, too. We didn't accomplish much but had a fun time with each other, and Jessica, and Chicago.


mr man said...

How many meals can you eat in a weekend? It sounds like you're both training to be gurgitators. I feel like I should just have salad all day now, after reading this. Good thing there's lots of walking in the city.

Glad you had fun on your mini-vacation.

peevish said...

I'm glad the rain didn't keep you from having fun!

Emily said...

Sounds delicious! I'm glad you had a good time. I've always enjoyed Chicago.

mrs. dap said...

Ahhh, sounds wonderful!

Jess said...

What a great description of Chicago! I'm so glad you loved the city and the food!!! It was an absolute pleasure having you both here and enjoying the best food of this city with you!!! I've missed you all so much!

I will be coming home the 24th of this month and I cannot wait to see the entire Vetmommy crew! So exciting!

Thank you so much for a wonderful week in Chicago and being such amazing company! I had such a wonderful time! I love you guys!!!!

Xoxo from Chicago!!!! :)