Saturday, October 22, 2016

the farewell tour 2016 part 2

So today's lunch on the farewell tour 2016 was at our favorite lunch spot - mfk

We love this little under the stairs place on  Diversey Avenue...the specialties are generally seafood oriented but they have a kick butt special order chicken ballotine that we always have to have when eating there... easy on the eyes - the delightfully decorated space puts you in an upbeat mood with artwork from a friend of the owners and the lights done by a potter friend of theirs as well... the summer picnic like seersucker napkins add a lovely comfortable touch as does the mismatched silverware.... an all around winner in our book!

we started with five from the little bites section - the ceviche and the three kinds of anchovies and the croquettes- which are ever changing...

the ceviche was made of suzuki (sea bass) and was perfectly spiced with the avocado having a kick and the citrus in the fish marinade giving it a tart balance to the slight heat-

all three anchovy dishes are fab but again the winner was the salt cured with butter and lemon zest...

 a new croquette- light as air - with potato and manchego cheese-

Phil loves meatballs and I love meatballs when they are not drenched in red sauce so we both win on this one!

the ballotine - rich gravy made it special today - the chicken had limited stuffing but was moist and tender so only a small niggly little disappointment.

the light as air but somehow rich Basque cake - we ate one and took one to go for later -

mfk fisher's seminal work on eating - tucked in a corner of the window sill - reminding us all to enjoy the moment...

the full menu for this week - if you are thinking you might like some of the other items - we were tempted by the octopus  but with the special order chicken- decided to forgo....

next week- oriole and goosefoot and how ever many other meals we can fit in around the last round of business meetings and doctor appointments and the film festival - oh yes that is still going on - and Phil saw three good movies last Thursday - two of them he raved about- in his order of preference-

so stay tuned for more- - - and hopefully it will include some words on the Cubs World series games!

the farewell tour 2016

So yes- I am back from opening up the condo for the winter and we are now making our rounds on what we refer to as "the farewell tour" 2016 version... like those bands of aging rockers that keep on making the rounds - so do we only we do it with our favorite restaurants - and we won't make it to all of them again before I leave in less than seven days.

So last night we made our final 2016 outing to 42 grams- one of three of our favorite run by couples with a guy who was a chef and a woman who was in business before they joined forces to create three of Chicago's most fabulous dining experiences- the other two being Goosefoot and Oriole. (a shout out to a new on our radar for Hanbun in the category of places run by couples - although that one is in LBO - maybe Willowbrook or Westmont- some W name- but look it up is worth the trek)

but back to last night - the meal was terrific as usual - with a number of new courses since we saw Jake and Alexa last the tail end of August for one of brother Steve's birthday dinners...

here is how the extremely convivial evening went- for the two of us and six other guests (Happy Birthday Vanessa!) - don't worry about the small print - you can follow along with the broken down menu - and photos---

we started with a Chassagne-Montrachet 2002 La Romanee from Girardin which was unfortunately corked but of course we had a back up bottle (just in case LOL)

This paired with the courses through the pheasant - with the pheasant going well with that or with the 1996 red burgundy - Vosne Romanee from Cacheux (it was somewhat lacking in fruit but the acidity and balance worked well with food)

Starting with a new and to-die-for course of foie with incredible crunch texture and unusual citrus (rather than sweet) notes as the presentation- 

we are always thrilled when we see our small contribution to the overall experience at 42 grams (Phil's old silver plate service that found a new home with Jake & Alexa)

The next course - also new- had so much hidden I did a shot as presented and then one as it was uncovered-

another to-die-for - especially for mushroom lovers like we are!

Pheasant with forbidden rice - oh yum!

the world's best cheeto - LOL - of course it isn't a cheeto but it crunches like on with a flavor far far far better! And since it is dusted in kale it must be healthy right? LOL

keep your lips together! LOL

a fab dessert reminiscent of sticky toffee pudding (which with ice cream is my all time favorite dessert)

and I could have a dozen cups of this "coffee" LOL light fluffy and the hint of cardamom makes for a perfect meal end!

we stayed quite a while talking to our seat mates (Vanessa and Ethan) and Jake & Alexa and hearing about their plans for their holiday get away trip... catching up before leaving town... lovely evening, lovely people and outstanding food!

and then we were up and out today for lunch at mfk - but that will be another post because they each deserve their own - food in Chicago has never been better and we are sorry that there just isn't enough time to return to Osteria Langhe or Ruxbin or Sun Wah or Ba-Le for the bahn mi.... sunshine is calling for us.... and we must answer- knowing that it won't be long before we will be doing the welcome home tour here in 2017 after a farewell tour in Florida... so stay tuned....

Friday, October 21, 2016

my blogging anniversary

Today completes six years of blogging- and close to 1200 posts... with more than 82,000 hits... yes you read that correctly LOL- people have clicked on my blog posts 82,000 times in the last six years- which is quite amazing given that the first two months or so were what I would call "practice" posts....

So I thought it would be interesting to go back and do the one, two, three, four, and five year anniversary posts to see where I was and what was going on - this photo was my very first blog cover/header photo - since the whole thing about the blog was that since I was semi-retired I would now have enough time to do something like this...

so here is where we were last year on the fifth anniversary of blogging- in Plovdiv, Bulgaria

and here is where we were two years ago on the fourth anniversary - in Trieste, Italy

and here is where we were three years ago on the third anniversary of starting the blog- in China

and here is where we were four years ago on the blog's second anniversary- the Nordic Capitals (in this case Stockholm)

and here near the first anniversary of the blog - is where we were- We were preparing for a trip to Croatia and Montenegro but my closer post is about a year when we had taken three roads in traveling over about six weeks -three somewhat hair-raising trips - recounted here with

so I think you can tell from these entries that we frequently travel in October (Phil's birthday trips) and that even in the very first days of the blog - while the posts were not fully fleshed out- it was about a trip-

so on we go- I spent  a few days south to open up the condo for winter and now I am back in Chicago to get ready for Lucy and I to head down there next weekend- meanwhile the film fest - dinners at goosefoot, 42 grams and Oriole before we leave and a last lunch for the year at our favorite lunch spot mfk... oh and TB is coming to visit for a few days.... so we won't be idle LOL (like we ever are!)

So as always- stay tuned....

Sunday, October 16, 2016

a difficult start

So leaving Theater Wit - I went off to the Chicago International Film Festival for the first of seven films I have scehduled during this year's festival.  Tonight I was seeing A Quiet Passion - a film about Emily Dickinson that I basically decided to see because a favorite actor was in it- Jennfier Ehle.  Sadly - although the film was full of excellent performances, the movie was a very very long two plus hours and was so depressing it made you want to slit your wrists...

Beautifully filmed, the story was bleak despite the profusion of flowers- virtually everyone died, and when they lived, their lives made one wonder: why bother? The brother's infidelity, the mother's depression, Emily's own illness... the father (OK he was "of an era") dictating who could do what in his household... on and on...

From wikipedia:  Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886) was an American poet. Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts. Although part of a prominent family with strong ties to its community, Dickinson lived much of her life highly introverted. After studying at the Amherst Academy for seven years in her youth, she briefly attended the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary before returning to her family's house in Amherst. Considered an eccentric by locals, she developed a noted penchant for white clothing and became known for her reluctance to greet guests or, later in life, to even leave her bedroom. Dickinson never married, and most friendships between her and others depended entirely upon correspondence.

While Dickinson was a prolific private poet, fewer than a dozen of her nearly 1,800 poems were published during her lifetime.  The work that was published during her lifetime was usually altered significantly by the publishers to fit the conventional poetic rules of the time. Dickinson's poems are unique for the era in which she wrote; they contain short lines, typically lack titles, and often use slant rhyme as well as unconventional capitalization and punctuation.  Many of her poems deal with themes of death and immortality, two recurring topics in letters to her friends.

Although Dickinson's acquaintances were most likely aware of her writing, it was not until after her death in 1886—when Lavinia, Dickinson's younger sister, discovered her cache of poems—that the breadth of her work became apparent to the public.

so not off to an auspicious start- my day has been filled with a bunch of lunatics LOL- but there is always tomorrow (right Scarlett?) and so we go on...two more films and I think at least one is supposed to be funny!


Yes that is what we refer to it as- Naper-Hell... an exurban "flee the city buy a McMansion with a three car garage for your SUV" locale outside of Chicago.  So sure Chicago has its own issues but seriously - where would you rather live? In a place where on a single block you can get authentic ethnic or a place where you can eat Chipotle or Olive Garden or (fill in chain restaurant name here- the list is unending).

We have the Art Institute, The CSO, Lyric Opera, the Chicago International Film Festival, off loop theater say nothing of the music venues for all kinds of music throughout the city - including one three doors north of our building... we have a variety of Michelin stars - they have....well exactly what do they have?

It was to answer that exact question that I decided to chance attending the eponymous play at our own neighborhood Theater Wit.  At first I was going to skip it- but then in an email exchange with the director he issued a quasi challenge to give it a chance and so I swung by there on my way to a film at the Chicago International Film Festival -

here are some excerpts I found in reviews online-

Naperville is one of the wealthiest in the Midwest. Now, it’s the setting of a new play in Chicago.  Written by Naperville native Mat Smart, the play “is bound to leave you breathless,” according to a Chicago Sun-Times review.  Set in a Caribou Coffee, the story follows Howard, who is thinking about moving back home to Naperville to care for his newly-blind mother. As he deals with her, Howard must also face old faces from his school days.  The Sun-Times praised the show for its lack of a cynical eye toward the suburbs.  “(Smart) clearly understands all the pitfalls of those green oases that stretch beyond urban centers, but at the same time he transcends the often snarky and dismissive attitudes about them in a surprising way,” the review said.

BTW- A quick review of the things to do in Naperville on Trip Advisor - only reinforces my sense that we are dealing with chains and strip malls - check it out for yourself and see if I am too "snarky or dismissive" - I think not...

excerpt from the Chris Jones review in the Trib-

Chicago has Nelson Algren. New Orleans has Tennessee Williams. Los Angeles has Raymond Chandler. But what of Naperville? What literary giant has immortalized the fifth-largest city in the great state of Illinois?

(Money Magazine and Kiplinger are hardly) adept at chronicling the dreams and fears of the fevered souls that lay their heads some 35 miles west of the city of Chicago, and just south of the Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway, all safe in the knowledge that they are never far from a strip mall.

That sad state of affairs is corrected — to some degree — with the arrival at Theater Wit of the play "Naperville," penned by Mat Smart, a bona fide son of the suburb. Set in a Caribou Coffee — a locale whose poignancy is intensified by the demise in Illinois of that woodsy, caffeinated chain — "Naperville" tells the story of several sad-eyed denizens of the town.

At one table you've got the recently divorced Anne, a Waubonsie Valley High School graduate who is trying not to have peaked. At another you can find both Candice, who is coping with the loss of her sight, and her son Howard, who is coping with being back in Naperville to take care of his mom. Add in a local churchgoing fellow named Roy, a barista named T.C., and the lattes are flowing into what passes for diversity in this particular Naperville nook.

Smart is smart enough not just to get trapped with his characters but to realize that a play about a city has to strive to find the essence, and the ironies of that setting. He homes in beautifully on one — Joseph Naper, the founder of the far-from-the-lake town that bears his name, was, in fact, a shipbuilder. One sick of the water, evidently, and deeply in love with the prairie.

so if this is about people and not really about Naper-Hell there is no reason for it not to be called Rocky River or Middletown or any other suburb/exurb name... and one wonders why the irritating name in a city-based theater production... It is said that Hemingway referred to Oak Park as a community of "broad lawns and narrow minds."   So - follow the logic folks- Oak Park is adjacent to the City - and Naper-Hell is 35 miles away...just sayin....

We always tease our son by asking him when he is moving back to New York City (he lives in the Bed-Stuy area of Brooklyn) after living in Manhattan for years, but we certainly cannot criticize his choice as one of "broad lawns and narrow minds" - you would be hard pressed to find a more ethnically diverse population than Brooklyn despite gentrification. So I don't believe it is a question of proximity, or lack thereof. In my opinion it is one of mind set. For those of us unwashed, violent,(and frequently "off white") City dwellers, that the exurban and suburbanites from Schaumburg and Naper-Hell work so assiduously to avoid, we can't help but wonder about that undercurrent....

My husband once had a banker who wanted to do a lot of business with him but would never come into the city to meet him- always insisted on lunch in the suburbs... what drives this mentality? Needless to say the banker didn't last... but- I see this has turned into somewhat of a rant, so I will get back to the play....

The play was - well - mixed- some very good performances - but mostly unlikeable characters.  Yes I understand humanity is flawed and all but here are a few comments-

do we really think the woman who has recently gone blind pretty much by her own hand is going to be so incredibly stoic a mere three weeks after she loses her sight?

do we really think a woman who believed herself to be living her dream as an exurban housewife would drive to Iowa just to "fuck" her husband's good friend because he made fun of her for thinking living in Naperville was her dream existence? (regardless of what a dick-head he was- surely there was some method of revenge at closer hand - and seriously why wouldn't he laugh when she said her dream was to be a volunteer at a pioneer museum in exurban Chicago?)

and the local Jesus freak - all too pat that he had turned to religion when his mother (who he couldn't bother to see when she was sick) passed on with out him....

here's what I will give the play - the desperation of TC to get these folks out of his Caribou is VERY real and he was the one character with realistic motivation for his actions- on a downward spiral for most of his adult life (as opposed to the other "johnny-come latelies") he deserved a better coffee shop within which to play out his dramatic plot line- the others characters contrived and two dimensional were just pathetic imitations of what it is truly like to be a loser - that character deserved more than he got both in his own story and this one.

From there I went on to a truly depressing life - so consider this the comedy before the tragedy and stay tuned for film ONE of the Chicago International Film Festival.... up next "A Quiet Passion"....