Monday, March 13, 2017

Chicago Food

Once again, nature has tricked us into coming to Chicago too early in the spring. We try to go in March for our daughter's birthday, and just when it starts to warm up, after she face-times while sitting on a blanket outside with her children, we book our flights. Then the arctic wind blows and our weather apps warn the temperature will feel like 20 degrees with the wind chill factor.  As usual, we will bundle up and carry on!

When the other daughters hear we are going, they manage to squeeze into the fun wagon. The son-in-laws have never been to Chicago, so their wives are anxious to share the fun, the food, the sights. We consider getting hotel rooms, but the time together is already too short, and with the added expense, the consideration disappears. We settle with borrowed blow up beds in the unfinished basement and in a displaced child's bedroom. On travel day, there are six of us!

We long ago established certain Chicago traditions--especially eating traditions. First night, Edzos: famous hamburgers, milkshakes and home of the loaded fries. Always a line out the door.

Second eat out tradition: The Chicago Pizza Oven and Grinder, famous for its food and location across the street from the 1929 St. Valentine's massacre. Eating at this restaurant is tricky: downtown parking, a 45 minute wait and a host who doesn't take names, but remembers patrons by their faces and party number. This time with a large group, a nine month old baby, and the weather, no one wants to be stuck outside waiting. Plus, only two tables in the restaurant will seat a party of ten, so we leave an hour early allowing plenty of time for traffic and the search for two parking places. Traffic is normal and we find a space in a relatively short time. The glitch comes in the strain of trying to park an 11 foot van in an 11 & 1/2 inch parking space. After a 20 point turning effort, I nail the space, and I'm proud.
We are first in line with ten minutes until opening. The host welcomes us in. Easier than expected, but we are still relieved when seated with menus in hand, and even happier when we've ordered our individual 1/2 pound pizza pot pies and family salads. Five minutes pass and the wait jumps to 45 minutes.

The trip wouldn't be complete without an early morning, downtown donut run, which our son-in-law host makes with his son. He returns with a box of sophisticated named donuts: Valrona chocolate glazed, pistachio with meyer lemon glaze, carrot cake with sweet cream cheese frosting, vanilla bean glazed, candied bacon, cheese Danish, Michigan apple fritter.

Lest one think this is a food centric trip (busted), it is only so because we are hampered by the intense cold. Yesterday, when the four year old couldn't wait to go to the park, we doubled-layered clothing, donned hats and gloves and crossed the street. I was in for the long haul, but fifteen minutes later, the little guy asked to go home: "It's too cold."

The really fun stuff like The Bean, the St. Patrick's day green-dyed river, and Michigan Avenue, are not so fun in 23 degree weather with humidity that chills to the bone. So, what is left? Food foraging for the delicious, the innovative, the unexpected.

Our first foray into the heart of the city, my daughters are excited to share their memories with their  husbands. When we make the first turn on Lake Shore Drive that reveals the skyline, I peek in the rear view mirror to see my son-in-laws' first impressions~~~both of them are sound asleep.

Turns out they haven't slept so well this trip. Those borrowed blow-up mattresses have slow-leaking holes. The slow, all night descent onto hard ground, has taken its toll; sleep is more enticing than a first-view of the city.
As if to punctuate our ill-timed travel, she graces our day of departure with snow.