Chicago 2012

In which all we do is eat or talk about eating - I'm not hungry for nothing...

DWA Bernard threw a tantrum the other day. He hadn't been travelling he said, "Two years! Two freaking years! I've not been anywhere! It's not fair! I have to travel; it nourishes my soul!"

A few of us around him pointed out that actually, he'd been to Tulsa, Orlando, San Antonio, Narramata and one other place which I don't remember now. He looked sourly at us, and with tears brimming, snapped at us, "They don't count! It's not even international, and besides they were work or family trips and everyone knows they're not real trips. It's not fair, I've not been travelling in YEARS!" 

As it happened, I was heading out to Chicago for a few days for a meeting, so he sneaked into my baggage and I saw him climbing out of my bag just as I was heading to the hotel lobby to look for dinner.

"Ah there you are", he beamed graciously as if he'd been kept waiting by me, "it's just about time for a little snack isn't it? And that was the start of a week's worth of eating rich, fatty and fried foods. Prosciutto with a fig glaze and caramelized onion on crisp flat bread was what I had. DWA Bernard had prime rib sliders and copious amounts of red wine. 

The first day there, there were only educational sessions which had to be paid for, but not by me, so we went down to the river and lake shore. DWA Bernard had looked up the weather forecast for the city; unfortunately, it was more a tissue of lies than a forecast. It was supposed to be hot and sunny, but instead it was foggy, windy and cold. DWABernard believing in the forecast went without a coat and grumbled about the cold every 5 minutes, and the cold wind finally drove us into "Due" a branch of "Uno" which promised us unique, and the best Chicago pizza in the heartland of the US. Don't be taken in by its hyperbole. It was tomato sauce pie with a few bits of sausage thrown in with grated cheese. The salad was classic ice berg with a red vinaigrette that tasted somewhat like cochineal beetle and artificially sweet raspberry. So much for pan-pizza, ML and DWE would not have approved - they who will only eat thin crust, toasted quickly so as to be crisp. Then we went back to the hotel where the room still wasn't made up. 

You see, DWE and ML had been contemptuous of the choice of hotel - JW Marriott - and had sent us alittle video to warn us about the chambermaids. We had scoffed at him, only to be woken up by a huge banging on our door in the early morning and shrieks of "Maid service!" We turned them away, and they were obviously not happy with the rejection.

The next day we had brunch at the South Water Kitchen, part of the Kimpton brand, which DWA Bernard researched and found online. We were seated by a nice young man and that was the last we saw of him because DWA Bernard flirted outrageously with him from the onset and scared him away. A weedy chap came over instead and DWABernard was most indignant and I had to shush him so as to not scare this one away too - shameless tramp, DWABernard, not the innocent waiter. I was hungry after all and wanted food

In the evening after a long day at the conference, I was chivvied into two coats, my scarf and hat by DWABernard who had been told to go to Andersonville where there were any number of charming furniture stores which you wouldn't be able to resist and even more charming neighbourhood restaurants where the pita bread was 'to die for'. Orange line to Red and a quick walk brought us there and the area was charming in its own inimitable way. The restaurant, Andies or perhaps Andieezze (so charming no?) was quite pleasant. Moroccan chicken stew in phyllo, served with couscous. For an appetiser, there were roasted dates wrapped in bacon. 

We wandered around the area a bit more, but the bitter cold wind made us flee back to the warmth of the hotel where the room was finally made up - except they'd disappeared with the white terry towel robes. DWABernard wailed when he realised this. Apparently part of what constitutes a 'true trip' is being able to wrap himself up in luxurious robes and loll about after a bath. Who knew that people had such high standards for trips. In his disappointment with the lack of robes, he thought of 
1) raiding the room fridge and 2) opening the half bottle of wine in the room. However, he thought better of it when he saw the prices for option 1, and realised that the hotel had used full BC liquor pricing for the half-bottle. In fact, for option 1, the items in the fridge were placed on sensitive pads which had a sixty second delay if items were removed, after which time the exorbitant charges were placed on the room tab. 

I told DWA Bernard that he could only remove an item if he were to sit on the sensitive pad for the duration of the stay. He threw a tantrum, and we compromised and I was sent out to 7-11 to get cookies and milk (2% please, with extra vitamin D added) for his royal highness DWA Bernard.

The next day, breakfast was oatmeal and coffee to prepare us for dinner at Hearty Boy's restaurant at the epicenter of gay Chicago. We also trotted around the lake shore to prepare us for the menu because we'd fixed our sights on fried chicken. This longing grew from a craving for fried chicken sushi I had weeks ago, and which I never manage to satisfy despite going to sushi with the SOCK, who has been having his own adventures what with being in helicopters whose windows pop out in mid-flight and so forth, but fortunately the devil-may-care pilot=with-cigarette-hanging-on-lip-in-laconic-manner was also very safety concious and got them back safely to camp or sleazy motel or whatever, in the past two weeks. 

Oh yes. Fried chicken. One thigh, one drumstick and a breast the size of Dolly Parton's coated in cornflakes then deep fried. Macaroni and cheese (an entree in its own right) for a side. Nary a vegetable in sight. Fries too. And of course for DWA Bernard, an entire carafe of wine - "to wash down the grease and anti-oxidants to protect my veins from the grease".

The next night, we eschewed trains and walked to the Laredo Cantina, Mexican restaurant, where DWA Bernard was in a dither over whether to order seared fish or enchilladas - We did, however, get the fresh, made at the table guacamole which was excellent. Chunky, hearty and tasty without any suggestion of slime that you so often find in commercial guacamole. I had fish tacos - and the only negatives were the soft tacos used which were feeble. Surprisingly, no wine for DWA Bernard who had a jug of Margaritas - oh wait, he did have a wine after to chase the tequila. 

Then back to the hotel where there was a game - Kentucky and Kansas - the finale to March Madness, and of course more wine was had to celebrate the win by Kentucky (or was it Kansas?). I had tea instead. That night, the wine must have gone to DWA Bernard's head because he started talking to me like I was CA and started showing me the pee-stains on the marble floors, saying that's why one should hover like ML or sit when doing one's business. I was desperate to stop this flow of unwanted information and sent a text message to CA asking him how he handled this verbal stream. He replied, "Sing Church Songs". Unfortunately, I could only remember "All things bright and beautiful", but wasn't sure whether that counted as a church song. Fortunately, DWA Bernard passed out fell asleep eventually. 

During the times we weren't eating or looking for restaurants to eat at, DWA Bernard went shopping or wandered around flirting with waiters, and I went to my meetings/. But there was one morning when I tracked down the Ted Baker store on North Rush St. where I was hoping to find a pair of slacks for my jacket, purchased in San Francisco a few months earlier - There, I was minding my own business in Saks Fifth Avenue, when I was accosted by this lovely lady from Ted Baker who stopped me, looked me up and down, and announced that she had the perfect jacket for me. She was right - especially when she told me that Ted Baker jackets were cut for the likes of me which is to say, slim and compact.

Anyway, back to Ted Baker Chicago - I wanted a pair of slacks to go with the perfect jacket for me - DWABernard, speaking sourly (this time due to the overdose of red wine anti-oxidants rattling about in his brain), said that I wasn't likely to find anything because as he put it, "your jacket is probably so last year by now" - Beotch. Unfortunately he was right about there not being a pair of slacks, but only because they'd sold out. I did see some shirts that I liked, but alas they didn't have my size because to my horror, I was no longer a size 3, but more of a 4. Granted this is better than a 5 or 6, but when you look at the change in terms of percentages, it's horrifying to me. 

This fact made DWA Bernard very happy, and he wasted no time telling CA about it, and I heard a whoop of joy - not very Christian of CA, but then again it's not unexpected given that he still hovers in the double digits while I've gone into the single digit domains. Ha. When DWA Bernard left the following day, I had a free afternoon to look around on my own, and went to Nordstroms for a peek-a-boo, and found Ted Baker socks! In fact one pair matched a pair of Ted Baker briefs! To delicious to be able to resist so I didn't. I have decided now that whenever I'm in a city where Ted Baker is to be found, I shall return with an item of clothing. Next up, a scarf because my Muji scarf all the way from Hong Kong airport went missing on the way home.