Thursday, June 16, 2005

I know, I've gone to Chicago and back and no blog entry yet. I completely suck.

Truly, it's been pretty busy at work and home, so I haven't had too much time. For the sake of not appearing dead, I will post some quick notes from our Chicago trip. Overall, the city didn't impress me that much. Sure, the Lincoln Park and Wicker Park areas were great and the Maxwell Street Market (imagine a flea market, except all the food stands there were serving deliscious tacos, tortas, tamales and the like) was like a dream come true, but the city lacked a certain feeling. It's the feeling I get when going to Toronto or San Diego that I really can't explain, but endears a city to me. Maybe it was that the public transportation was just like a bigger version of Cleveland's RTA (continually late and smelling like pee) or that it lacked the near-downtown residential neighborhoods that I love so much about Cleveland.
There were some culinary high points though:

  • The Indo-Pak community on Devon Ave. Imagine, if you will, a distance of about 3 city blocks (or so) filled with Indian Restaurants (including a few Indian sweets shops. I have a weakness for Indian sweets. I'd go so far as to say they were my favorite kind of treats ever. So, a store selling nothing but was pure bliss. Somehow we walked out of one with a full pound of milkfudge. I still haven't figured that one out.) Genevieve, obviously, was in heaven and wanted to try all the restaurants, though we settled on one called India Garden, which was very good.
  • The previously mentioned Maxwell Street Market. At first, I was a bit lost, as most people were speaking very rapid Spanish and, in the flurry of activity, I had trouble figuring out the ordering system for the food stands. But, I eventually figured it out (as well as the fact that most vendors were very happy to explain things to me, in english). I started out with a yummy snack of grilled corn, covered in crema, some sort of flakey mexican cheese and chili. I'd read about this sort of street food in my cookbooks, but its high fat content had kept me from making it at home. Pierced on a stick, it was a great snack while wandering around the market though. Next up, I grabbed possibly the biggest taco ever, filled with beef simmered in a mole rojo sauce. The tortillas were homemade, as well (in fact, they were being made right there, on a huge cast iron plate), which is, as always, 100X better than store bought. After browsing the various bootleg items there, I settled on a tamale shop (yes, I was a complete pig). I ended up getting two pork tamales with red sauce (for the low low price of 0.75 a piece. nice.) These were, unfortunately, really dry and I caught a good gob of fat in one of them. Not very good. I finished things off with a churro (mexican deep-fried dough, basically, a donut). Again, this was a disappointment. They must've been sitting out all day, as they were very dry and chewy. All in all, I stuffed myself for just under 9.00, I was pleased.
  • Okay, not a high point, but a bit of a complaint. I understand that Mr. Rick Bayless is hot property and has been so for quite some time. To find out if we need reservations for his restaurant, Frontera Grill, we pop on over to their site, where they say that, for small parties, that you do not need reservations. So, we head on over there for dinner on Saturday night. Now, granted, it was a saturday night, but it was also after 9:00pm, well after the big 7:00pm dinner rush. Still, upon arriving, we get told there was a 2-hour wait for a table!! You know, we wouldn't have minded making reservations, but if people are going to need them, you need to *tell them*! The evening was not a complete wash though. We walked down the street and had our real Chicago deep-dish pizza experience, over at Gino's East. I'd had what Pizza Hut and the like consider deep-dish before and this was nothing like that. The dough was so dense, it bordered on cakey. I am a big fan of pizzas of all sorts and I love their 1-piece-almost-makes-a-meal huge chunks of crust, sauce and cheese.

That's it for now. I may blog more random thoughts are the week goes on.