Thursday, September 30, 2010

Taste Eat Enjoy

The title -- and motto -- of today's post comes from a sign hanging over the outdoor cafe at Millennium Park in Chicago, one of several signs there that relate to relishing one's food and drink. From a hearty breakfast to unbelievably good coffee, and from free chocolate to burgers, follow along on Tom's and my Friday Feasting from last week ....

After our amazing Thai dinner the night before, we grabbed a quick breakfast at the Corner Bakery. Yeah, it's a chain and neither of us is too keen on those cookie cutter entities vs. the "mom 'n' pop"s; on the other hand, the chains still employ people who need jobs.

Since I was only eating a granola-yogurt-fruit parfait and Tom had scrambled eggs with bacon and tomato and avocado, along with toast and fried potatoes, I didn't bother to take a photo ... which is too bad, 'cause it was actually pretty good. But this was just a pit stop so I wasn't in "food blogger" mode at that moment.

And just why was this only a pit stop, you ask??? I'll tell you: we were on our way to Mecca -- Intelligentsia Coffee. I'm not an extraordinary coffee snob, but I do refuse to drink swill like Folger's or Maxwell House unless I'm truly desperate and semi-conscious. I adore the Beowulf Blend from Oren's Daily Roast in New York. I love the Dharma Beans and Deadman's Reach from Raven's Brew in Alaska. But we were in Chicago, so we indulged every one of our senses in the experience of Intelligentsia.

Walk in the door and you immediately notice the open and airy but simultaneously crowded and congested atmosphere. The staff bustles about efficiently, and you can actually watch as your pour-over is made. (I didn't photograph the entire process 'cause it kinda felt intrusive to be 2' from the barista and to be using him as a photo op.) Wet the filters to reduce the papery taste ... pour water through to heat the carafes, which are also on a heated grid, then rinse them out and let them drain ... freshly grind the beans (which have descriptives written about them making you feel as though you're reading about a bottle of wine with impeccable vintage!) ... slowly pour the water over the coffee to let it steep ... watch as your coffee is poured and carefully presented to you, a thing of beauty in every way ... :)

Tom had never been to Intelligentsia before, though I'd brought him some coffee from Jeremy's and my trip to Chicago in June. I think he felt as though he'd reached Nirvana; before even finishing his first cup there, he'd determined that we would go back again in the afternoon for more!

As we walked back to Michigan Avenue, a young man (well, a guy in his 20s -- that's young, to me!) wearing a pink shirt came up to us and asked if we'd like some chocolate. But, of course!!! He was promoting Ritter Sport chocolates, and handed us each 2 samples in addition to a card advocating for breast cancer research.

Two of our 4 treats were milk chocolate filled with strawberry yogurt; one was hazelnut; and the last was dark chocolate with marzipan, one of my favorite foods on Earth. I thanked him, watched a couple of other people gather their own goodies, personally witnessed someone refusing the offer -- ?!?!? -- and we walked off as I repeated my thanks and told the man that he had a great job -- he was dispensing happiness.

After a morning of wandering and meandering and stumbling upon the topic of tomorrow's post (shhh, it's a secret!), it was time for lunch. And a good, hearty, filling, sturdy, Chicago-worthy lunch, too -- burgers at Miller's Pub.

Dark wood, a noisy bar, crowds of happy eaters ... this is what we were immersed in as we walked up the stairs to the maitre d' on the second floor. He initially seated us at a table right in the midst of everything, which was simply too overwhelming to contemplate; so when I caught sight of a quiet (quieter) table in a corner, near the upstairs bar and next to the banister overlooking the main floor, I asked if we could move. And we did.

I excused myself for a trek to the ladies room, and when I came back Tom told me a most entertaining story about the three older gentlemen at the bar just a few feet away. Reminiscent of my father and his retiree buddies, these guys were telling their tales for oh, what? the 84th time??? They met, they reminisced, they embellished, they relished their time together, as they were clearly in their 80s and who knew which of them might not make the next lunch meeting? And one of them told a story about going into a whorehouse in Paris ... ah, the war stories!

We'd been on a mission to find a good burger, so this was actually one time when the decision-making process was fairly easy. Tom ordered a plain ol'-fashioned burger with lettuce, tomato and onion, served along with cole slaw and fries. When it was all put together, it was quite the enormous sight! A disciplined eater who doesn't usually indulge in so much fat and salt and lack of nutrition, Tom actually seemed to enjoy himself as he ate this ... :) Yes, one has to eat all things in moderation and try to watch out for one's health. At the same time, you can't be afraid of your food; sometimes you just have to have some fun for yourself.

I took a bit of a detour and ordered the Patty Melt: a burger patty on toasted rye bread with grilled onions and Swiss cheese. It was huge, it was greasy, it was fatty ... and oh, man, was it good!!! The pickle was a nice "old" one with lots of flavor, rather than the "new" ones that are too bright and still too cucumber-y. The cole slaw was creamy and very good; I'll eat virtually any kind, though I tend to prefer the vinegar types, so I was very happy to find that this sampling was too stingy and that I wished they'd served me more.

The fries were hot and crisp -- a little more golden brown would have been nice, but these certainly were a good complement to the sandwich. But clearly, the star of the show was the burger, which truly could have served for two meals had Tom and I split it. Does that make me a glutton, that I finished it all??? I was walking a lot! I was on vacation! I was hungry! And I just simply enjoyed it so much that I don't care what anyone thinks of my lack of restraint. Ha!

The afternoon was spent looking at obscure art exhibits, walking some more, drinking yet more Intelligentsia coffee, checking out The Bean in the sunlight, and generally meandering through Chicago. By dinnertime, we needed some sort of food but weren't extraordinarily hungry after our enormous lunchtime feast.

So I took Tom to my favorite gourmet food store -- Fox and Obel. Oh, the spices! The pastas! The jams! The chocolates! The ice creams! The crackers! The cheeses! I bounce around the store like a pinball -- here, there and everywhere.

Since there is a prepared foods counter, we decided to get something simple to eat there: a lovely Greek vegetable salad, since we were feeling a bit nutrition-deprived after those lunchtime burgers, paired with a rich whitefish spread and some crisp crackers. Oh, and don't forget the absolutely luscious cinnamon pound cake, too! That could have been dinner alone ... :) It was rich and buttery but still light, with a streusel that had sunk to the bottom. Sigh ....

So, that was how we spent our Friday -- eating, walking, walking, and eating. Not a bad little vacation, methinks!


Angela said...

I am in love with Ritter Dark Chocolate with Marzipan--and free! oh my! I will also admit that I usually have breakfast at the Corner Bakery when in Chicago. They do a nice job and they have great oatmeal.

Cranberry Morning said...

Well, that does it. We're definitely taking that train trip to Chicago this winter! We're going to Intelligentsia, Miller's Pub, and I'm tracking down that guy in the pink shirt who's handing out Ritter Sport!! (my two favorites are dark chocolate with hazelnut and dark chocolate with marzipan...YUM!!) You say someone refused it????

So those places along with the Field Museum of Natural History and a good used book store and we'll be set! :-)

Unknown said...

Great, another place that I need to visit now! I need to win the lottery so that I can just travel. Though I think I might be 300 pounds if I did.. all I would want to do is eat and eat and eat!!! :) Thanks for sharing your tasty trip experiences with us!

Robin said...

My favorite part of this post was your astonishment at someone turning down the chocolate. Maybe they were diabetic. Does that make it better for you? LOL. I might have been one of those people. I am just not much of a sweets person. I think that you and I would have one heck of a time together. We would drive each other a good way, I hope! I am thinking lots of chuckling at the other one's habits. Maybe some head shaking.

Keri said...

Wow... you had me at the coffee. I too wish you had been in blogger mode and managed a photo of Tom's breakfast. It sounds like something I would order for sure.

Great meanderings and photos too. Chicago is my kind of town, Chicago is. Another great post Ms. Floozie! Keri

Lily said...

What a trip, a McDonald's artist, chocolate, coffee, amazing food...looks fabulous! I found you on the 40+ hop.

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