Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Chicago in the Rear View, Onto Columbus

A final get-together with friends (L to R: Ang, Nick, Bek, Chris, Kate, Paulie, Ian, Rich, Claire, Lee, Alex, Caroline

Bekah posing with American Gothic mural, High Street, Columbus. She could be smiling about a number of things at this stage in the journey: our lack of car difficulties, the splendor of magical Columbus, or the fact that we just ate at Dirty Franks, a hot-dog restaurant with over fifty varieties!

Eva, Zeke, Robots

1) Go to Columbus 2) Eat Jeni's Ice Cream!

Zeke and high school buddy Micah, discussing various legitimate subjects.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Chicago Montage August 11-14

My favorite breakfast place in Chicago and possibly the whole world (at this point) is Sweet Maple.  This little Tri Taylor gem of a cafe is always hopping and for good reason.  The price is reasonable the breakfasts are big and the southern style food is delicious.  Someday I will make biscuits as good as the ones they make there, but until then I will dream about their biscuits, their "Sausage, Egg and Cheeser" breakfasts sandwiches, their cheddar grits.  I credit Sweet Maple with my appreciation of southern food.  Grits??  No way!  Fried Chicken for breakfast(!?!) on a Biscuit?!? Yuck! And so on and so on, but now I can see the genius in Southern Food and appreciate the excessive amounts of butter, grease, and cream that exists in every dish. 

Our volleyball plans were disrupted by this dark mass of foreboding clouds sweeping across Lake Michigan.  The Life guards summoned everyone off the beach once the lighting started striking and once the torrential rains started we were glad to be in out of the weather.  We had to share our shelter (the Foster Beach Bath House) with a funny group of middle aged cyclists, decked out the gills in panniers, padded shorts, sweat bands and spandex. 

Another Chicago favorite, "The Map House", a neighborhood bar with one of the best beer lists in the city.  We went on a rainy afternoon with two good friends for a pint and a chat.  The atmosphere of the place hasn't changed.  The walls are still lined in 70's National Geographics and its still populated by the same eclectic crowd of beer enthusiasts. 

Reading Newspapers front to back is my vacation activity of choice.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Beer Tasting and Volleyball August 9th

It may look like ballet but its actually beach volleyball.

Beach volleyball was the activity of choice this week. All of our friends are obsessed and we played for hours and hours. 

After getting tired out playing volleyball and swimming, we went back to Nick's apartment for dinner and a beer tasting. Z and I had brought about 10 different beers from California and our trip out. Most notably we supplied Pliny the Elder from Russian River Brewery, one of the top beers in the world which most people had never had the opportunity to taste. The other highlight of the beer tasting was Dark Lord from Three Floyds Brewery in Indiana. Rich, our Dark Lord Supplier for the past two years, generously supplied this year's Dark Lord and we ended our tasting with this beer.

I selected four different cheeses to pair with the wide variety of beer.  Black diamond five year aged cheddar from Canada(sharp, nutty, long lasting finish).  Rogue River Blue from Rogue Creamery in Oregon (Creamy, smooth, salty, fruity and perfect with the IPAs).  Parrano Gouda from Holland (caramely, nutty and creamy).  Delice de Bourgune (my all time favorite triple creme from France).

The home brews that Z and Trevor brought were also big hits.  Everyone was very surprised at the quality and all around tastiness of their beers. 

Chicago Times... August 7th and 8th

We arrived back in Chicago Sunday afternoon and decided that, having spent all weekend with our friends in Detroit, we needed (obviously) to spend more time with them. Nick and Angela planned a big Southern feed: friend chicken, hush puppies, spicy collard greens, cheddar grits and coleslaw. One of the things I missed most about our friends in Chicago is the way they all get together for big blow out community dinners.

Following our trend of never having a meal alone, we met our friends Greg and Katie the following afternoon for Brunch at Glenn's Diner. Glenn's Diner has a cereal bar with over 40 different types of cereal and we had fun pyscoanalyzing each other based on our cereal preferences. My favorite will always be Cinnamon Toast Crunch due to an unfortunate banning of said substance from my home as a child. That said, I don't at all understand the chocolate cereals: cookie crisps, cocoa puffs, etc. Chocolate for breakfast? No thanks, unless it comes in the form of a croissant.

Slack lining in the park is a must for lazy Chicago summer days.

We ended the evening at Kincade's on Armitage playing Trivia with Dan and Heather and enjoying their $1 burger deal.  Our nerdy team name:  "Ron Weasley and the Riders of Brohan".  Stupidest Trivia question we missed: "Which company uses the slogan 'good to the last drop'?"

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mozart Concert in Millenium Park August 10

Millennium Park's (and Chicago's) most recognizable feature is "The Bean" or "Cloud Gate" depending on which side of city hall you are on.  Created by Anish Kapoor, "The Bean" is  beautiful and much beloved by tourists and natives alike.  It weighs a whopping total of 110 pounds and pleasantly distorts and reflects, making it the perfect photo op for solo tourists and an amusing past time for children.  

The three rules of any free Chicago event: get there early, claim your spot, protect it with you life.

Summers in Chicago are jam-packed full of events, they over lap and run into each other competing for space and attendance.  The free summer concerts put on in Pritzker Pavilion are always well attended.  The crowd largely depends on the performer, so if Iron and Wine or She and Him are playing you can expect 20 somethings in mustaches, flannel, and polka dots to be in attendance.  If, on the other hand, you have the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performing Mozart and Strauss make room for the retirees, their mini picnic tables, their lawn chairs, their wine, and their snobbery.  Some of the comments are group of 25 friends received:  "Why didn't they just go to the beach?" "They obviously can't appreciate this..." Mostly they communicated through dirty looks and under the breath murmurs but some of the septuagenarians were ready to get violent, front row space is a hot commodity on a Millennium Music night.

Wedding Day! August 6

All ready for the wedding our two close friends, Kimberly and Brendan, in Detroit

So great to be back with my best friend, Nick. No he's not 42 as this photo projects
Trev, me, Paulie, Jimmy, Joe, and Tyler. Not looking too bad given
we hit the d-town street basketball scene hard about an hour before

The sweet outweighs the bitter in this photo. We were all so excited about this event, and the wedding was glorious. However, we were not all excited about a 90 degree day and about 193% humidity, no A/C probably within 5 city blocks, and no fans except these hand-helds. Humorously we all cried more tears of backsweat than from our eyes...  

Our good friends Clair and Rich, and background special guest huffin' puffin organ man.

Kimberly is a methematician, and was therefore sure to come out with the most calculatedly beautiful dress. Brendan, on stage, was wearing a very uncalculatedly beautiful boy smile her whole walk down.

All ringin' bells for the bride and groom

The reception was at a Players Club that just had its 100 year anniversary. Basically old dudes (and NO dudettes) get together and perform plays for each other in a beautiful castle-like structure, complete with many secret rooms, etc. I think when 50 of us were dancing to Lady Gaga on stage it may have somewhat dishonored the space, but it was worth it.


The Long Haul.... Utah to Detroit, MI Thursday/Friday August 5 & 6

This was the longest day of our road trip by far!  After Denver there really isn't anything very interesting until you get to Chicago (unless you're really really into prairie).  We decided to do the drive straight with a couple of one hour breaks here and there.  So we started Thursday at 6 am in Arches National Park in Utah, went through Colorado, through Nebraska, through Iowa, through Illinois, through Indiana, and finally ended up in Detroit Michigan Friday at 6pm.  Needless to say, I hated the car by the time we got out.

The majority of our quick breaks were spent exploring the various Colorado Breweries. Although we barely scratched the surface I was still very impressed. 

Avery Brewery has been a long time favorite.  They pump out classics like "The Reverend", "Hog Heaven", and "The Maharajah".  Since we are pretty familiar with their brews we stuck to trying the tap room only specials.  We also picked up a 12oz bottle of their "Samael's oak aged ale" which they call the "port of beers".  Its one of three in their "Demons of ale" series.  They are all dark, intense and well over any alcohol percentage you would expect to find in a beer.  Did I mention it was absurdly delicious?

 We had big plans to visit New Belgium Brewing, until we went in and discovered that it was a total mad house.  It was chock full of sweaty, pseudo casual business men just back from one of New Belgium's bike trips.  I really didn't expect this brewery to be such a caricature of itself; all you get are bikes, bikes, bikes.  I love bikes, I have nothing against bikes, but just stop trying so hard.

 Odell Brewing Company more than made up for the New Belgium disappointment.  Located right down the road from New Belgium it provides a far better experience with more unique and interesting beers.  We did a taster set of their heavier beers known as the "Copilot Taster Tray".  They do a lot of creative stuff with hops and are not afraid of crossing styles.  My favorite of the night was their "Hopfen- Hoppy Hefe" which is essentially a hoppy Hefeweizen and perfectly delicious.  I like my beers to have a bit of substance to them so as much as I enjoy typical Hefeweizens they are too light for me.  This beer was the perfect compromise; it had the delicious Hefe flavor but with a maltier richer mouth feel and finish.

We picked up some friends in Chicago to give them a ride to the wedding and in the first 15 minutes of us being in Chicago we unintentionally ran into an old friend while picking up lunch. It made me feel like Chicago was still "our city" in some small way. Since then there have been other run ins and random meetings and each time I get so excited. It brings to mind the saying "you're not truely gone until your forgotten".