Monday, August 17, 2009

Its My Kind of Town

Greetings from the windy city!
Derek and I arrived in Chicago early yesterday morning. After checking in to our HUGE hotel, we walked around and explored the city. I've only been here once before, and it was in the dead of winter so I didn't get to do too much exploring outside. This city is pretty cool! We started walking along the water up Lake Shore Drive. It was a very warm day, so everyone was out in their boats.

Its pretty amazing how big the lake is - it really looks like you're on the ocean. During our exploring we came across a Turkish festival, a ferris wheel (which we tried to go on but it was closed due to high winds), and an air show. All day their were huge fighter planes and helicopters flying overhead - it was little disconcerting! For lunch we stumbled upon this amazing gourmet grocery store that also had a cafe - Fox & Obel.

Derek had the same reaction to this place that he did when we visited the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco - its a good thing we don't live in this city, because I would spend all our money here! I was drooling over the amazing seafood and cheese counters.

Well, not literally drooling. They probably wouldn't like that in this store. With our lunch, I ordered a Goose Island India Pal Ale - a local Chicago beer. Derek had a beer from Michigan because he's traveling there for his next job.

To eat I ordered a Thai Noodle Salad - without the chicken. It had cold soba noodles, green onions, sugar snap peas, carrots, napa cabbage and crispy wontons tossed in a spicy peanut dressing.

And on the side we ordered Truffled Frites. The crispy fries came covered in parmesan with a dish of mayonnaise that was packed with little truffle bits.

I seriously would have been satisfied with the dish of mayonnaise and a spoon.
It was out of control good. Before Derek dragged me out of the store kicking and screaming, I bought a few treats from the counter of gourmet candies.

I bought some chunks of lemon blueberry shortbread covered in white chocolate, dark chocolate almonds, and dark chocolate chipotle almonds. We walked around the city a little more and came across these guys.

Not sure what they were doing here. Then the skies opened up and it started to pour, cutting our walking tour a little short. Luckily, we were a few blocks away from a movie theater so we decided to duck in and see District 9. Seemed like everyone else had the same idea, because we ended up having to sit in the 3rd row. The movie shot all on hand-held cameras, so it was not the best film to see that close. But it was a pretty good flick - definitely a very different kind of alien movie. Walking home after the movie we found the Mother Ship.

This a huge outdoor auditorium in Millennium Park. Its pretty cool but totally looks like an alien spaceship. We also found the the mini explorer ship.

And the bean!

This cool reflective bean is one of the many modern installations that are in Millennium Park.

You may have noticed that Derek doesn't like to smile in pictures.

We had reservations to go to The Publican for their Sunday Family Style dinner, but we were still too full from lunch to go out for a big meal. We ended up just going down to the bar in our elaborate hotel lobby.

Where I had a couple basil gimlets and a lobster dog. I always feel bad ordering things like lobster outside New England - knowing that it was probably shipped it from Maine. But I've never had a lobster dog before, and this did not disappoint.

It was basically a lobster cake shaped into hot dog form and fried, then topped with a buttery tarragon sauce, grape tomatoes, and green peppers. It was a pretty darn good dog.

I got up before work this morning and went on a great 5 mile run along the lake.  Very necessary after all the Sunday food. We worked this morning, then had lunch at the famous Potbelly Sandwich Works. I had a "skinny" mushroom melt sandwich, with thinner bread and less cheese, because I had plans to check out the local version of PinkBerry for dessert. Every city seems to have one of these now, so I figured I should continue my National yogurt tour. Chicago's version is Berry Chill, and its tart yogurt is only 20 calories a serving and no fat, and its lactose-free. I don't really know how you get lactose free yogurt, but this tasted pretty close to PinkBerry.

I got my dish of original with thin mints, mangoes, and raspberries.

For dinner, we tried to go back to The Publican, but couldn't get a reservation and the wait was too long when we tried to walk in. We ended up going to a place right down the street - Otom. The place was absolutely empty when we got there, so we were a bit skeptical. But the food was great! It was sort of upscale, complicated comfort food. They brought the table bread with "buttered popcorn" butter that really did taste like popcorn. I started the meal with potato chip gnocchi.

It was in a very rich Gorgonzola sauce with spiced pinenuts and champagne grapes. I didn't really taste how the potato chips were involved, but it was good. A little too rich for a starter, and the gnocchi was a bit mushy, but still an interesting flavor combo.

For my main course, I decided to get the vegetable plate. Usually that's a pretty bland dish, but I figured this restaurant would do something different with it. And I don't get as many veggies when I'm on the road, so I wanted to get my fix. The plate had 6 small preparations - 3 cold and 3 hot.

Going clockwise from the top left, there was a cold quinoa salad with cucumber, green and yellow beans in a yuzu sauce, zucchini risotto, a corn fritters with corn sauce, some other kind of fritter with a tomato and ranch sauce, and marinated roasted eggplant that was unlike any eggplant I've seen before. They were small, red, and round and looked like cherry tomatoes, but had the texture and bitterness of eggplant. All the vegetables were seasonal and grown near by. The corn fritter was the best - it was so sweet! I just love these kinds of meals, where you can have little bites of lots of different flavors rather than one huge dish of the same thing.

I was so stuffed after this meal that I actually turned down dessert! So unlike me. But I guess I have a whole week of eating out to have fancy desserts. I'm going to be on food overload by Friday!


  1. Must be a Chicago thing ... because I have some of the same pictures from my trip earlier this year -- just sub in myself and my husband!

    Your comments won't let me put in a link, but you can find it on my blog and searching "I Back the Bid!" which is the name of that post.

    We loved Fox and Obel, too, but it was pretty expensive. I'll take Trader Joe's and Whole Foods instead.

  2. That veggie platter looks amazing, however I'm so gonna beat you at weigh in Friday if you keep these meals up!!! JK!

    The mayonnaise comment made me nauseous... xoxo, come back soon!