April 13, 2010

Chi-Ca-Go! Chow-ca-go!

I've always wanted to go to Chicago. I grew up watching Married with Children (especially when Mom already went to bed- Dad understood its importance in our lives.)  There was an episode that had Kelly taken up very temporary employment as a weather a bunny.  
She actually says, "There is a Strom forming in Chi-ca-go." You can forward to 1:56

Moving on-=  I definitely drank and dined my way across Chicago.  I loved that it was composed of so many different neighborhoods. I hit up Lincoln Park, Buck Town, Gold Coast/The Magnificent Mile, Wrigleyville, and others.

I arrived at 11 am on Wednesday.  From the moment we stepped in Chicago- things just generally seemed to be in our favor.

Our luggae was the first on the bag retrieval belt.  Then we met this cheesy limo driver, Ray.  He told us he could take both of us in a Town Car for $40 to our hotel.  I was questioning it- but my traveling companion went for it.  the town car ended up being a limousine.  He was blasting some hits on radio including Boston's "More than a Feeling."  We pull up to our hotel, the Swissotel, overlooking Lake Michigan.  Megs got a great deal on it so we stayed for $89 a night and it was a two block walk to the Conference hotel, the Sheraton.

We were hungry- so we headed to Michigan Ave, the Magnicficent Mile.  Our selected haunt-
The Purple Pig reminded me of little bit of Amada- based on menu and decor.  You can check out the menu here. There tag line is "Cheese, Swine and Wine."
 We nibbled on some healthy stuff like Beets and Fava beans...then brought on the swine.
We had Milk-Braised Pork Shoulder and a Pork Blade Steak with ‘Nduja & Honey.  This was excellent, but could have been accompanied by a steak knife. Major minus right here.  Our bartender apologized and I understood given their limited time open. (Just under three months).

Two days later I went back for  a brief lunch with Lance who was out there with Iron Hill.
He got a lil bone marrow...then moved on to Fried Pig Ears. I opted for Octopus with acini di pepe & Swiss Chard.

Their beer list was a weird one.  Our bartender who's personally reviewed over 60 beers on Beer Advocate started to defend it- mentioning that the owners wanted things to complement the Mediterranean flair of the restaurant.    But there were 3 German beers on (including the Reissdorf Kolsch) and 3 Italian beers ranging from Usual suspect like Peroni to Italian craft beer in that of Birrificio Italiano Tipopils.  Very dry- a nice complement to the meat and cheese plate.

Here's the quick run down on all our other eats.

Apparently despite the mass amounts of golden (and brown and black )goodness to be consumed around the windy city- there are 3 quintessential beer bars.  I made sure to hit them all before I left...and one even twice.  They are the Map Room, The Hop Leaf, and Delilahs ( I heard this is Monks owner, Tom Peters numero uno).

Map Room- a bit crowded. Would like to visit at another time...when I am not so distracted and I can get a seat at the bar. 
Hop Leaf- I really liked it.  It was much bigger than I had anticipated.  The plates coming out of the kitchen peaked my olfactory senses curiousity- however we would move on for some bbq at Sheffields in Wrigleyville.  I enjoyed the new VAnber de Wulf Lambrusco here.  A combination of Lambic ande Kombucha weighin in at a mild 3.5%.  The perfect beer to start the night.

Delilahs- Prob my favorite stop of the week.  I actually went here twice proving so.
The Dj on the first night was playing New Order, the Clash, Talking Heads and Jesus and Mary Chain amongst other New Wave tunes.   The bartender refused to accept that De Rankke Noir was on the taps, but after a 5 minute back and forth I had the Belgian dark delight in front of me.  The interweb describes it as the "Legendary punk/ rock and roll bar that serves over 400 types of whiskey) Learn more here.  Whiskey seemed to weave in and out of my week.  This was my first whiskey with Brasserie De La Senne Brewer/owner Yvan.  We've known each other for some time....heck, Lance and I might even take a trip to Belgium to visit him one of these days.  Whiskey seemed appropriate for our reunion after a year or so.

And the others
Sheffields- Went for Michigan beer night.  they were pouring a few rarities from the Wolverine state.
Unfortunately they were so busy from the Conference- that they ran out of all things smoked.
I settled for a burger with bacon and some beans.  The owner was so regretful that they had run out.  he took great care of us.We sat looking at a closed beer garte,- I can only imagine how hectic it gets on game days as its mere feet from Wrigley Field.

Green Door-There was a Sierra Nevada event taking place here so I headed over with Jimmy Meiers and Megs Maguire after a few beers.  There was a slew of Sierra Nevada reps and admin...some of the nicest guys.  I would have stayed longer but Lady Delilah was calling my name like a temptress.
Rootstock- This was the suggestion of Heather and Dave of Good
Dog.  Sort of reminded me of TRIA meets Ressurection ale house?   Ryan Neibhur ordered 2 of everything on the menu (small plates)...and bottles of wine popped left and right.  They had a great list of big beer bottles that we started off with.  Nice service...overall great place.

Green Mill- Old School Jazz Club. Got there too late - we missed the music, but we did not miss the whiskey. It was there that Megs and I would meet up with a few New Zealand gents that were in town for the conference.  They were funny.  I'd like to go back there on my next visit when the place is in full swing. More here.

Gage- This came at the suggestion of one Jennie Hatton.  She's been out there a bunch working with Jose Garces at his restaurant Mercat a la PlanxaGage is rustic yet sophisticated.  It's operated out of an historical building, and if you eat there once, you will want history to repeat itself.  I only got a chance to nibble on a scotch egg, while enjoying a Three Floyds Robert the Bruce- a Scottish Ale seeping malt with every sip. 
I lost my photo so this is from Time Out chicago.
This is definitely a MUST hit if you hit Chicago.

Signatures on the 96th Floor- Not a hit.                I mean it was nice and all -sure we were way high in the sky on the 96th Floor of the John Hancock Bldg... and it was one of the only times I actually saw Lance Romance the whole time I was out there- but lack of ambiance inside the windows, and lack of remotely good service, gives it two thumbs down.  Plus as much as I love coconut- I never have to have another coconut mojito.

Big Bowl- I loved this spot- another recommendation of Good Dog/Swift Half partners Dave and Heather. It was a fresh Chinese and Thai Chain -yes I went to a chain- but it was fresh- and the service was on point and my meal was pretty damn good.  We started off with Chicken Lettuce wraps...which I thought I had had before but never like this.  Then  I went on to have sweet ginger sea scallops and shrimp in a sweet vinegar-soy glaze (just when I didn't think I could consume one more mollusk post Lent- I can).

My favorite part was actually the beverage.
They make fresh gingerale there as well as fresh gingerale non-alcoholic drinks and cocktails.  It was an N/A moment for me so I stuck with the passionfruit Gingerale.  Such a nice complement to the food.
It made me wish a few bars in Philly made their own Ginger Ale ( I know Tom Baker of Earth Bread + Brewery has done it).  

Kingston Mines- This is one of the spots I actually went to twice.  On the first night there...we thought we would follow the crowd to the Publican. Which looked like a good time and a great meal - but was in the middle of nowhere- with an hour wait just to stand at the Bar.  I had heard amazing things...but alas- we wasted $15 on the cab and got another one after waiting in a hot hallway in everyone's way for 10 minutes.

We ditched the beer trekking for a while and went to the Kingston Mines.  
My friend Andy said "If there's one thing I need to do in Chicago- it's the Kingston Mines."
It's an old school blues club in Lincoln Park.  The beer list is forgettable.  Crafters can drink a Sierra Nevada or an Abita Purple Haze...that's really about it.  They focus on their cocktails like the Hurricane juice that we ordered again and again.   The music was unforgettable as were the characters that occupied adjacent bar stools.  They had 2 stages that rotated 2 acts for $12 until 3:30 in the am.
Just in time for us to make the Wieners Circle...which deserves its very own post to follow.

The Weekend wrapped up with a quick stop at the Clark St. Ale House then off to the
Bottom Lounge- which had multiple stages, as well as a massive outdoor deck to enjoy the beautiful night.  Fred Bueltman, Beer Evangelist of New Holland and his band performed. 

Everyone was there.  The Iron Hill Champs and all.  I even got to shake the hand of  Jeremy Kosmicki-the man that won not only the silver medal for the  IPA category, but the Silver for Robust Porter, the Silver for Strong Ale with the Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale, and the bronze for American Style Imperial Stout with Founders Imperial Stout. He's totally laid back and totally is willing to do a shot of whiskey with me.

Now that I am back from Chicago- which I might rename the Whiskey City as opposed to the Windy City- I am ready to lead a Tully-free life...one full of treadmills, h20 and general self-restraint-=-

1 comment:

  1. you're not kidding about the lowlight closeups. Nice job and fun stories as we've come to expect.