Thursday, July 25, 2013

Eat Chicago. Or, The Day I Ate A Pig's Face

Or, "how I gained 7 lbs in 48 hours and took 48 days to complain about having to take it off".

Short story:
The food was excellent.

Long story:
According to my coworker who used to live in the Chicago area, there are several heated debates about "the best" Chicago-style (deep dish or stuffed?!) pizza. We were up for the gluttonous challenge. Based on time and locale, we decided to try two different spots, one on each day.

Sunday we went to Giordano's, to try their Chicago-style stuffed pizza. There was a 1.5 hour wait for a seating (where you would then order a pizza that took 45 minutes to prepare and deliver to your table). I'm ok with the 45 minute pizza (we've consumed our fair share if calorie bombs at Zelda's), but a 1.5 hour wait at 3pm on a Sunday? No. So we snagged a seat in the bar. The hostess even kicked out some people from a two top for us. They were pissed, I was pleased with this new development.

The pizza was delicious. Sausage, pepperoni, onions, garlic, and green peppers (on my half).

The flash was actually off in this shot, but my face is so shiny
from all the humidity it washed out the rest of the picture. 

 It did have one fatal flaw: too much cheese. I didn't know a pizza could have too much cheese. It can.

Excess cheese oozing out. Easily fixed but kind of a bummer.
But: check out the phenomenal roasted garlic on top! 
Displeased with too much cheese. 

The small was listed as serving two, but it could easily serve four. We ate it anyway and were uncomfortably full the rest of the day. But I guess that's not really Giordano's fault. Anyway it was kind of a bummer we were so full because we had dinner reservations at 10:15 PM.

Yes, 10:15 PM.

Chris had reminded us that Girl and the Goat was in Chicago. GatG is Stephanie Smith's restaurant, winner of Top Chef season 3. Personally, I always put an asterisk next to this one, since the only reason Stephanie won is because Richard Blaise totally choked in the season finale (asks admitted to doing so), this handing the title of Top Chef to Steph on a silver platter. Richard ended up winning Top Chef All-Stars so the universe worked it all out, but still.

So anyway, it's a super popular restaurant now and they only had one reservation available. While I used to not even leave the house to go out until 11PM (with Amanda, hopefully she's reading this so we can both rejoice that we no longer live in dumpy Sacramento apartments but had some good times at Mandango's), that's not how I roll anymore. We almost didn't do it, but quickly came to terms that w had no idea when (or if!) we'd be in Chicago again, so the reservation was made. And at 10:15 on a Sunday night, the place was packed. Do people in Chicago work?

We ordered:

Bread, with goat cheese butter and corn relishGoat cheese butter is delicious.

Fried pickles. Doug makes better ones. These were more like fried cucumbers. Also, can  you see the absolutly incredibly obnoxious hat in the background? This loser sitting next to me thought she was Ricky Ricardo at the Copacabana. 

Potato Won-Tons. They had green garlic, ramps (pretentious word for wild green onions), shitake mushrooms (eat shitake!), asparagus and pecans. These were decent.

Goat Empanadas. Obviously we had to try some goat out and these were FABULOUS. Goat meat stuffed in a soft yet crispy shell with some pickled vegetables, goat cheese and a cheese/sour cream sauce. Amazing.

Mmmm. Meat eaters unite!

Pig Face. That's right, pig face. I ate the face of a fucking pig and it was delicious. Tasted like bacon. Came with a sunny-side egg on top, three different sauces (tamarind, red wine maple, and cilantro) and potato straws
In your face, pig!
Cracking the egg... in the face!

Dessert was a Goat Cheese Bavarois. It was (from top to bottom) blueberries, a brown sugar cake, and whipped goat cheese on top with little sprinkled caramel crisps. Sounds weird but it was absolutely amazing and someone in Sacramento should start making these ASAP.

If you go with a big group of people, you can actually order a goat leg at this place, and just  nosh on it all night. Will try this next time.

Monday it was time to try another pizza place, this time for Chicago-style deep dish pizza. Gino's East has three locations now, one of them a sports bar about a half molds from the Chicago Art Institute. Based on the pizza experience we'd had the day prior, going to the bar, as opposed to an original location, seemed the quicker option, and we were right, the place was pretty dead.Pizza still took 45 minutes, but they had beer flights so we stayed pretty entertained.

This deep dish pizza was smaller (thank God, because our self control is nonexistent). We got the Chicago Fire: spicy sausage, red peppers and red onions. Again, absolutely delicious. Very spicy.

The sausage is in patties, not chunks, and was spicy. The crust is yellow and I think is made with cornmeal, which is something I'd never had and was a unique element.

Sausage patties and  yellow cornmeal crust. Yes. 
What is this? Oh right, an extreme close up of some pizza
 I ate with a huge bite removed. Scary looking. But: Yum!

I suppose it's not really fair to compare a deep dish to a stuffed in the Great Midwest Vacation Pizza Showdown, but it's not like I'm fair anyway. Doug and I both agree that Gino's East gets the W.

What's the best pizza you've ever had? Ever eaten a goat leg? Are you a vegetarian? (If so this probably isn't the post for you.)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Chicago Fashion

Full disclaimer: I wear 4 inch nude wedges when visiting a farm and a cemetery:

I guess I also "strike a pose" at cemetery's... it must be my unconscious way of letting my ancestors know I'm doing fabulous. (PS -- Love you Uncle Richard). 

So while I'm personally more willing to sacrifice comfort for fashion, I don't normally judge others on their fashion preferences, and I applaud when they take fashion risks.


Because this, my friends, is not normal.

Bean nearly obscured by giant lime green tule dress. 

 Welcome to Undercover Style File, Chicago Edition! Where I sneak pictures of unsuspecting tourists and locals and then try to think of funny things to say about them. With love, of course. It's all about the love. And admiration. Because I truly admire someone who has the balls to pose with this lime green... thing:

You can kind of see above, but there were a ton of tourists watching and talking about this moving spectacle throughout the park. At first I kept my distance, but then realized she'd never be able to chase me down or anything. So I stepped right in for some close-ups.

The date/groom/attendant in white trying to figure out where this mass begins. 

The people holding her dress (her?) look like maybe they would rather be doing something else. That pink blob in the background is a flower girl... or someone holding lime green flowers, whatever that title is. 
Eyes burning. Too much fluorescent. Moving on.

I always enjoy discovering big buttcheeks barely covered by tight jean shorts on prominent display when I'm strolling thru a park.

What do you think happened with the couple in front turned around to stretch their necks?

To come across a matching set was a rare but special event. Again, they were sleeping in their natural habitat so I was able to take a pic easily. In fact, after I did a Japanese tourist got to feeling brave and followed suit.

This woman was on our architecture boat tour, so I had to pretend to take a picture of the building behind her when she turned.

Calico Head
It's kind of hard to see the problem but here's a close up. It was very patchy, and I'm not sure it was supposed to be on purpose.

Purple must be trending right now, because also on the boat tour was this purple sequined fedora. She kept moving from side to side of the boat so it was hard to sneak a picture.

Instead of a distracting and obnoxious "look at me!" purple sequined hat, might I suggest the following as a potential alternative:

You can't get more Chicagoian than a Pizza Beret!

The Intellectual. 

Then there's this. You may as well walk around with a shirt that says "Mug me, I'm a tourist!" (a la "kiss me, I'm Irish!"-style). The pizza box from an (albeit delicious) touristy pizza place, the backpack, camera bag...  he was also talking really loudly with a huge grin and just seemed overall like a fucking asshole.

He did seen pretty happy, so I can only assume he wasn't mugged. Or maybe he was and is now excited to tell all his friends about the time he got mugged in the big city! Whatever man, more power to you and your white pants. I snuck this picture through the luggage rack on the airport shuttle. Actually now that I look at this picture closer I must have missed a golden opportunity to get a better shot of this pink swirly garment in the forefront.

The overall fashion in Chicago was interesting. Lots of locals wear athletic clothing - running attire, but their not running, their walking their dogs and hoping they don't have to poop, since dogs aren't allowed to poop within city limits. There's also a lot of see-through clothing. Not blatantly see-through, just enough so that you know the color of their bra and that their underwear is too tight. I don't have any good pictures, but you can see in this one three locals wearing athletic gear crossing the street on both sides. There also appears to be someone falling down in the corner - ha!

And the final fashion faux paus of the trip is... me. I adapt to my surroundings quite quickly, so I ditched my lovely cotton dresses for stretch pants, sneakers and a stained t-shirt the next day, and Doug adorned an athletic cut Under Armor shirt (just in case someone tried to shoot us on the last day, he was protected).

Oh my god, I forgot that I left my sneakers in the car and so I walked around in sandals during the morning stroll! Hideous. Also, Lincoln in a 3-piece suit and long overcoat in the middle of a hot and humid Midwestern summer ? Poor fashion choice. And no top hat? Inexcusable, regardless of current weather conditions. 

My handsome husband in his protective under armor and "stay away!" face. 

So, what's your worst fashion faux paus of this decade? Do you love stretch pants as much as I do? What's your "stay away!" face look like? Have you ever owned a sequined hat?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Willis Tower, and other ridiculous delusions

We're in Chicago!

After five days wandering thru farm fields and lakes, it was time to check out the city before we headed home. Of course, Terry got up early to make us homemade cornmeal blueberry pancakes and sausage before we hit the road. I'm silently cursing myself during breakfast -- wasting all those years with my own family and in laws when I could have been kickin it with the Midwestern crew! Instead of making me homemade cornmeal blueberry pancakes, the California Garrow's act like they raised me or something and I should be all thankful, blah blah blah.

Anyway Chicago is cool, and we had some great tour guides in the form of Chris and my two coworkers who used to live in the area. This post covers two days of activities, with super mega special bonus posts about food and fashion coming later.

Day 1
Actually, one thing that is not cool is the tolls. We had a 90 minute drive from Mishawaka to Chicago and it cost us three stops at toll booths for a total of $12 bucks. Weak.

We heard the boat architecture tour was a must-do, so as soon as I finished giving an (admittedly undeserved) shitty attitude to the hotel concierge for their ridiculous parking fee ($45, in other words, fuck you and your rental car) and driving to a different lot to store the car, we were off!

You can tour the city by bus, bike, boat or foot. The humidity makes even blinking a sweaty event, so we decided on the boat. $85 later we were touring the city skyscrapers from the river (lake?). About two thirds if the way through, the tour guide's microphone went out, so they brought out this megaphone. I guess something was wrong with the boat ago we were headed back early, with the tour to be continued via megaphone. I couldn't really pay attention because all I could fantasize about was ripping the megaphone out of granny's hands and telling childhood stories about my dad to these folks (collecting donations afterwards), but I did manage to snap some cool photos during the tour.
On the boat, underneath a bridge. 


Bridge open/lifted.

This is probably one of my favorite photos. You can see the reflection of three other buildings in this building.

They were offering a free ride on the next boat tour or free tickets to another to make up for the megaphone shenanigans. All I could think was if they didn't give me a full refund, this scene would be worse than the time Dan and I exploded at the manager regarding the lawn demolition outside our hotel room. I believe the end result was Doug and Dan's wife Theresa huddling in the back of the office petting the cat, and me and Dan smiling happily about a free room upgrade.

Anyway a full refund was issued, which was nice because honestly the architecture route was only mildly interesting, it was super expensive, and the buildings are viewable from all over the city. So with $80 back in our pocket we moved on to Millennium Park.

When somebody tells you make it a point to check out a giant mirror bean in the middle of a park, the normal reaction is to smile politely and think about other things you'd never want to see. Luckily I ignored these thoughts and checked out the bean. I was wrong. This thing is pretty bitchin.

Can you spot us?

Doug likes to take pics with his mouth open. 

As was this big outdoor fountain thing. Lots of screaming children.

Then there was a woman bathing her children in a fountain which did not appear to be a bathtub.

Amphitheater with Giant Metal Thing.

Our dogs were barkin so we took a break at Barnes and Nobles (free bathrooms, wifi, and air conditioning) before heading over to Sears Tower!

I'm sorry, did I say Sears Tower? I meant Willis Tower. Right, because the tallest structure IN THE WORLD can just be renamed when a new sponsor rolls in and everyone will love it. Nobody walks around asking where Willis Tower is. It's like renaming Christmas or New York or Carmen Electra*.
Sears Tower had a huge wait, was super tall, and had scary see-thru ledges you could stand on.

Looking down from the top. 

Day 2
Slept in at our cool hotel that Doug scored with hotel points. The Indigo on the Magnificent Mile is in a great Chicago location (imho). Cute neighborhood with lots of old buildings, apartments, and restaurants. A quick walk takes you to all the tourist locations, and a little park with a statute of Lincoln and a face.

Look at this bitch totally copying my pose second after I descended these steps!

We took a walk this morning and did our own architectural tour.

Chicago is a very anti-dog city. Which is great, because I hate dogs. Everywhere you go there are no dogs allowed signs, keep of grass signs, and I even saw city sign that said "dog feces attracts rats". All the city landscaping had little fences around it to keep out dogs. Finally sometime figured it out.

All beautiful landscaping is protected from dogs with nice fencing. 

Chicago also hates cars. There is a public bike share program, which is great, but it's small asks only had sucking stations at downtown central areas. In an effort to promote their bike share program (no), parking was $33 a night at the corner lot of our hotel, $10 per half hour at other lots. 48 hours in Chicago = $55 in parking fees.

Enough about dog feces and parking, on to fine art.

We went to Chicago Art Institute. Saw some great pieces.

Doug standing in between a Manet (L) and a Monet (R), which I find amusing. 

Van Gogh's room. And me. 

Van Gogh self portrait. 

Doug, serving as the next model. 

Green Acres! Just kidding. The American Gothic. 

Red Armchair (Picasso)



They were also having their Impressionism, Art and Modernity special exhibit, on loan from the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, France. This exhibit was boring because, you know, we are fancy world travelers and had ALREADY SEEN THE EXHIBIT IN PARIS! I made sure to talk about this loudly in the vicinity of other visitors so they knew how important and fabulous I was. We actually did end up visiting the exhibit because we wanted to see this painting, featured poignantly in a popular 1980's movie.

What was really interesting was that the special exhibit looked exactly the same in Chicago as it did in Paris. They brought in the same bourbon pained walls, the same display cases, even the same artificial grass and bird chirping track for their "outdoor fashion" section. They even had the same stupid no photography rule.

So, do you know the movie the painting was featured in? Have you ever bathed in a public fountain? Did anyone actually know that Sears Tower underwent a name change? Have you ever been to Paris, like me? Any other dog haters besides me and my dad out there?

(Special shout out to Elle, Betty, Chris and her daughter for their recommendations that led to an awesome Chicago trip -spot on!)

*Because Prince said so, Tara Leigh Patrick changed her name to Carmen Electra in 1991. To change it back would beer ridiculous at this point. See: Puffy Combs, Puff Daddy, P.Diddy, Sean Jean, Douche Bag, etc.