I have to confess, even though the thought of finally going to Chicago excited me, I had no idea what it was all about. Early Edition, Alinea, that musical-- fragmented impressions picked up from blogland, film, and television. When I got an invitation to interview there, I scheduled my flight so that I'd get a few more days to explore, and carefully searched for a hotel that would be priced reasonably enough to allow me that. Thankfully, there was Holiday Inn (you're great, Mariott, but too rich for my blood). I was lucky in a way to get my reservation, as it was fully booked just the night before because The Killers played nearby. Another good thing about Holiday Inn was that I only needed one ride on The El directly from O'Hare (thank you, 3-Day Pass), although I had to lug my 35-pound suitcase up 4 flights of stairs at the Clinton-Blue station.
I'm glad I got this chance, as it's just one of those cities that rewards those who really endeavor to scratch beneath the surface. I'm not quite sure if I'm one of those people, but I know what (and who) I wanted to see, and that's enough for me, at least till I get my first big paycheck and that will open a few more doors for me (ahemAlineaahem). But as a simple traveler, I still managed to enjoy myself a lot.
And I'm not talking about the shopping. Sure, the biggest names in retail are here, and that Mile is truly Magnificent, but I guess it'll be a while before I'm able to afford the type of clothes they have there.
It was a lot of fun navigating the subway system and the astonishingly organized grid city planning, but I wish I'd bought a good bus map, because it was a pain having to consult my laptop whenever I needed a bus route (hmm, so that's what these newfangled phones are for). Some things I wanted to do-- like go to a Jazz club, just because-- I had to postpone, but I'm not disappointed. Leave some for next time! The beautiful neighborhood above is Greenview Avenue, near Vanille Patisserie.
Now, I haven't nearly been in enough Patisseries in my life (believe it or not), but I don't think I'd be too far off in declaring Vanille as one of America's best Patisseries. There was absolutely no question I had to visit this before I left. If I had more time, I'm pretty sure I would have come back!
The display is leaning a little too heavily on the non-fruit choices (chocolate, vanilla, caramel, nuts-- okay, technically nuts are fruits), but I still had difficulty deciding what I wanted!
Sooo... I got two. Yeah. Hello, welcome to my blog if this is your first time. Anyway, I got the Sicilia, which is a pistachio mousse, biscuit, and raspberries. I thought the sphere on top was some candied fruit, but it turns out it was raspberry mousse coated in raspberry gelée! Awesome. The second is a Tarte Vanille, which is probably inspired by Pierre Hermé's creation.
The first lunch I had in Chicago was at Giordano's. A friend of mine had already warned me about the greasiness and general grossness of deep-dish pizzas, I felt it was something I had to eat. So I went with what was generally regarded as the best among the accessible pizza franchises in Chicago. I was pleasantly surprised as Anthony Bourdain was: the trick is to not expect it to be anything like a pizza, just let it be its own thing. So imagine it's a lasagna in a tart shell or something (okay, that not letting it be its own thing, sorry). BUT I did get a vegetarian one to avoid potential oil-slicks.
My first dinner in Chicago was in Avec, a bistro and bar. The entrance was near-invisible so there was this evil waitress inside practically screaming at me to enter from the side. Felt like an idiot, but the bartender was nice and said nearly everyone gets that wrong the first time. It attracted an easygoing, swanky crowd and I felt a little out of place with my water! I ordered the Frisée salad with pan-fried cuisses de grenouille, crispy fennel, prosciutto and paprika aioli. It was my first taste of frog's legs-- I had been saving my first taste for a very good restaurant, and these didn't disappoint. The taste was... interesting (cross between chicken and fish, how Darwinian), but it's the texture I wasn't comfortable with. Too slippery (!). The rest of the salad was really good.
I met up with the gorgeous Ginny of Just Get Floury, who didn't recommend eating the very plain hot dogs of Chicago, so we ended up at Atwood Cafe, which is located at the first floor of Hotel Burnham. We had a very light lunch of beef and vegetable soup, and Ginny had the... something in cherry something. Ha ha ha. I had a great time; it was just a pity Ginny had to study! (Sorry I couldn't go to your LOST premiere party too!)
This is the display at More Cupcakes, which looked good but I denied myself the indulgence as self-flagellation for bombing at my interview. I did, however, explain to two shoppers what Valrhona was.
This was my last dinner in Chicago, Le Colonial. It's critically acclaimed, but unfortunately due to my sinking mood, my appetite was waning. At least it allowed me to save money-- on a salad so big I couldn't even finish it. It was a Goi Bun So-- scallops with garlic fried noodles and lime vinaigrette. Yum, yum, and yum.
These are oil pastels from Blick, which I managed to photograph before one of the employees nearly threw me out. I can't believe Blick Art Materials has a bouncer. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my little tour (sorry there aren't any tourist-y things, heh). And Chicago? I'll be back. I promise.