Chicago, My Chicago

Being that my wife “had” to go to Chicago for a convention/conference, and our friends from Philly, Doug and Claire, wanted to go along, I convinced myself to go.  Which, I admit, took little time or effort. Alas, my faithful dog Zeus had to stay behind.  But he did get to spend time with his girlfriend Alice.  So, he was also happy.

Upon arriving at O’Hare airport, my first goal was to locate my Aussie friend Claire.  Amazing how well cell phones work in that regard.  Then on to the “L” for our trip downtown.  I must say the “L” is the best way to go if you are headed downtown or out of town to one of the airports.  The roads to and from are always packed, except at perhaps 2 AM.  So, when in Chicago, ride the “L”.

After checking in to our hotels my friend, Doug (of Doug and Claire fame) joined me to go to Wrigley Field to watch the Cubbies play the hated Cardinals.  I guess the Cards are hated because they win so much.  But, I must admit I rooted for them in the 80s when I was traveling to St. Louis for work and had the opportunity to attend a few games with friends while there.  I’m biased, but I think St. Louis is the best baseball city in the country.  But, Chicago fans would argue otherwise I’m sure.  Doug and I were not disappointed by the game. Cards were up 4-2 through the 5th and then the Cubs broke through scoring 3 runs to take the lead.  Stayed that way through the 8th and Chicago had their closer all set up.  But, it was not to be, the Cards scored two in the top of the 9th to win the game.  Great game, complete with a Chicago dog, beer, and peanuts (no cracker jacks).  Here is a view from our seats.

Wrigley Field vs. StL
Wrigley Field vs. StL

The next day after bumming around the city for awhile, I wandered over to Binny’s Beverage Depot to see if I could locate my favorite Scotch, Blair Athol 12 Year Old.  Had this in Scotland, can’t find it here and alas, Binny’s was out, too.  As their website says, “If you can’t find it at Binny’s…”  But I did pick up a cask strength Scotch that definitely needs a drop of water to bring out the spirits.

Once I had acquired my spirit, Brenda was out of her conference and we headed to the Chicago FoodFest.  Wow! Literally hundreds of vendors with foods you don’t usually find.  But, the absolute best was the freshly shucked corn on the cob dripping with butter.  As proof, here is Dr. Brenda enjoying such an item.  Yes, she does eat occasionally.

Yes, Brenda does eat, especially corn on the cob at Chicago FoodFest
Yes, Brenda does eat, especially corn on the cob at Chicago FoodFest.
Chicago FoodFest, Yum
Chicago FoodFest, Yum

The other guy is me, eating an empanada.

But the real foodie fun was just beginning.  Our first dining experience in Chicago this weekend was at The Girl and the Goat, yes goat.  And for those of you who know me, goat and I go way back.  Not the restaurant, the animal, but that is another story.

The Girl and the Goat is headed up by Chef Stephanie Izard,  To save repeating myself, you can read my review at Open Table but here is an excerpt:  “… the highlights were the calamari bruschetta, pan roasted halibut, grilled pork belly, taco bread, and goat loin skewers. We ended with “pig face with sunny side up egg” which proved just a tad too much, but we ate it anyway — most of us, that is.

Girl and the Goat
Girl and the Goat — No really, me and Doug at Girl and the Goat!!

After a brief respite, we headed out to Kingston Mines for some REAL Chicago Blues. This is another must see in Chicago. It is on Halstead and surrounded by other Blues venues.  Two stages, continuous music.  Stones have been here just to listen, nuf said.  Here is Joanna Connor and Lindsey Alexander.

Joanna Connor
Joanna Connor
Lindsey Alexander
Lindsey Alexander

Friday, Brenda and I just walked around the city.  There is always plenty to see.  Have you ever been to the Jazz Mart?  It purports to be “The World’s Largest Jazz and Blues Record Store.”  I’ve been able to acquire a number of CDs you can’t even find on Amazon, well maybe, but going to the store is much more fun.  Here is their website: http://jazzmart.com/.  Of course we also found time to visit an Art and Artisans store (Brenda’s favorite).  But mostly we just wandered.  Here are a couple of shots of the skyline, garden, and bubble.

A beautiful Chicago view
A beautiful Chicago view
The famous bubble in Chicago.  Can you see me?
The famous bubble in Chicago. Can you see me?

Friday afternoon, Brenda’s friend Shaun was able to offer us a treat in Oak Park — a tour of Pleasant Home.  Pleasant Home is a Prairie Style house museum located in the heart of Oak Park.  Designed in 1897 by prominent architect George W. Maher, the home is a National Historic Landmark and the only Maher building open to the public as a museum.  While most people know Frank Lloyd Wright, few know of Maher.  He and Wright worked for the architect Joseph Silsbee early in their careers.  If you have never been to Oak Park, it is well worth the visit, even if you just walk around and admire the homes.  (An easy outing from the city riding the L’s Green Line.) The area is truly a national treasure.  But I digress, as part of our wonderful tour of Pleasant Home, Shaun arranged for us to have tea in the home.  Here we are enjoying the Oak Park tea blend, “Diverse, fruity with nutty overtones”. You can purchase same at Serenitea, http://www.sereniteatearoom.com/.

20150710_153204[1]
Tea for 2 with friends included.

So, after a fun-filled day, it was time to eat again, this time just next door to our Hilton hotel at Mercat a La Planxa, the Chicago Tapas restaurant owned by Jose’ Garces, the Philly restaurateur.  While most in our region know of Jose’ Andres and his tapas fame, for me, Mercat is better.  Here is a synopsis of my review in Open Table: we started with the medjool dates stuffed with marcona almonds wrapped in bacon, then ventured on to arugula salad wrapped in prosciutto, branzino, chicken croquettes, short ribs flatbread, wild mushrooms, a special anchovies, goat cheese, roasted pepper dish, and lamb loin. On other occasions we have tried the shrimps (gambas), wild mushroom flatbread, etc., etc. It is all wonderful!  Chef Corey Morris is great.

Finally, we had to leave Mercat and depart from our friends from Philly.  Here is our parting toast.  Needless to say, our time together was filled with much food and great fun in the windy city. (A name that really has nothing to do with windy weather, but with politicians.  How apropos!)

Aussie, Philly, and me
Aussie, Philly, and me

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Russell

Having decided to "retire", I am embarking on a new venture focused on travel, trips, history, wonderful food and wine, and fun. Hopefully you will be entertained, enlightened, and enriched with my posts from the mid-atlantic to overseas.

4 thoughts on “Chicago, My Chicago”

  1. Great review of Chi-Town! Sounds like the only thing you missed was a steak dinner at Gibson’s. And now everyone on your reader list knows what Scotch to hunt down for you for Christmas!

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    1. Funny you mentioned the Scotch; my good friend, Bill Dietrich, with whom we went to Scotland with had his sister bring some over from England this past weekend, so I am fully stocked for now.

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